To Ban or Not to Ban … Should Not Even Be a Question

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association – Click image to go to the ALA Banned Book webpage

First read this article and this post will make more sense. 

Okay, now that you’re back…

To ban a book or not ban it shouldn’t even be a question. For me, it isn’t one I’ve ever pondered.

I’ve never agreed with banning books. And parents, don’tcha know that as soon as you tell kids they can’t do something, come hell or highwater, they are going to find a way to do exactly what you told them not to. Likewise, indifference to their reading material isn’t the answer, either – it just says you don’t care what they do, and then you’re buying the same kind of trouble. And my God – protesting a book because it contains “language we don’t speak in our home”? Are you going to ask for a ban on high school then, because have you heard the language in the corridors? Oy. How about a ban on life, too, because let me tell you, even a veteran swearer like me has learned new profanity even just recently.

I remember when the Harry Potter books came out. Many people in my sphere of influence at the time were all in an uproar – “the books contain REAL SPELLS!” and “it’s about MAGIC!” – and it really pissed me off, not only because the war cry came from many who are devoted Lord of the Rings fans (umm … MAGIC!) but because many of those people hadn’t cracked the spine of a J.K. Rowling book in their lives, yet they felt they were in an adequate position to condemn.

So I told my kids they couldn’t read them … until I’d read them first. And read them I did. Eight or nine times. And yes, there’s magic. And yes, I have problems with the general way it’s presented – the magic just IS, and can be used for good or evil; the good isn’t attributed to a benevolent higher power, and the evil isn’t attributed to a malevolent power. But that’s MY problem. Rowling didn’t write them just for me, and I have no right to get all uppity if her books don’t meet my standards. And my problems with the premise were absolutely and irrevocably decimated by the very profound message of the books: doing right is a choice, it is often not an easy choice, and it is a choice one must continually face throughout one’s entire lifetime with every conflict life brings. I would not have deprived my kids of that lesson for anything in the world. God knows they don’ t listen to me, so I gave Rowling a shot at reaching them. And she did.

My kids read the books. Did they ever try to Avada Kedavra anyone? No. However, they did read The Princess Bride as well, and WonderBoy challenged people to duels, so it just goes to show you never know what is going to resonate with them.

Parents, just be involved. Be firm in what you believe and give your guidance in your beliefs – but not your tyranny. Because true acceptance of beliefs comes not from having them imposed upon you with an iron fist, but from choosing them for yourself.

Let the kids read the book. I don’t read Alexie myself (the subject matters don’t run along my interests), but he’s a fellow Washingtonian and a writer, and being either of those is not an easy job.  

But just because your kid comes across some salty words in a book doesn’t mean they’re facing a life of doom and despair. For real.


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