I appreciate all the comments from the last post and there's a little more I want to add. There is no book that can't be challenged, no book that someone won't find offensive. I bet you English teachers have some stories you could share about that. It's everyone's right to respond how they will to a book, but banning the book means preventing not just yourself or your child from reading it but everyone else at the school or library as well. By the way, to clarify for some of the commenters, when a school remove a challenged book from the curriculum and/or from the library shelves, that is banning.We tend to ban contemporary young adult books far more than the classics, not because their subjects are more offensive (are Shakespeare's and Steinbeck's characters model citizens?) but because they're newer and don't have the decades of vetting to protect them yet. Which is such a shame because reluctant readers especially are far more likely to actually read a book written in their vernacular.
An English teacher friend of mine told me about a department meeting she had when first hired at a high school. To paraphrase:
Friend: "What about including a graphic novel in the curriculum? With so many ESL learners they could be really beneficial."
Dept Head: "No. Graphic novels have graphic content. We'd have parents protesting. So, who is teaching Chaucer this year?"
HA! Chaucer is far bawdier than any graphic novel I've ever read. Nevertheless, I don't think we should ban it.
The purpose of literature is not to represent perfect characters, an ideal world, where everyone acts kindly and appropriately. There's no benefit to reading that story, there's no learning, no questioning, no growing for the reader. I want to share just one more thing about the power and importance of great books, and why we need them free and available in libraries.
"I remember reading Speak. I had taken a copy out from the library and read it cover to cover. Often, I stop and shut the book when I get to the last page of the story -- but this time I did not. The very last page of the book should have been a blank page, but it was covered in writing. The girls and women who had checked the book out before me had filled it with messages: "This happened to me." "I didn't tell." "I thought he loved me." They told their stories in single sentences. Their rapists and abusers were their boyfriends. Their family members. Strangers. Someone they thought was a good guy but turned out not to be. Or the story they told was not theirs. It was their sister's or friend's. I read that page, and I was filled with sadness that this was the only place they felt safe to use their voice. I went to the internet and grabbed the number for a local sexual assault crisis line and added it to the page. It was the only way I could think of to reach out them."
What a powerful testament. Here's to books.
In case you missed it, here's a discussion we had about book banning a few months ago.