Saturday, October 5, 2013

Never Ban Books...Except That One

Here in the US we recently "celebrated" Banned Books Week.  Readers, bloggers, and news organizations have worked to bring awareness to books that have been banned by schools, libraries, and bookstores throughout the country.  The American Library Association reports that there were 464 incidents of a book being challenged or banned in the US last year.  These books have ranged from children's books like And Tango Makes Three to best-sellers like Fifty Shades of Grey to classics like To Kill A Mockingbird.  Everyone who participated spoke out against censorship and the right to read whatever one chooses.

However, the following week a new story surfaced that changed the tone of the argument and revealed a certain level of hypocrisy that exists in the reading community.  While in a bookstore, an 8 year old girl came across a set of books that she and her mother found to be offensive and sexist (basically two "survival guides", one for boys that focused on outdoor stuff and one for girls that focused on relationships and and fashion).  The girl become visibly upset and when a store clerk found out what was wrong, they decided to remove the books from the shelves.

“After looking through the books, the employee agreed they were offensive and pulled them from the shelves! She said if she had seen them first they wouldn’t have been there to begin with. She was great because she took action and validated my daughter’s feelings.”

Most news organizations and bloggers found the story to be wonderful and praised both the girl and the store for taking action.    Now, no matter what my personal feelings on these particular books may be, I feel this story and the reaction it has gotten to be hypocritical.  We just finished speaking out against censorship and limiting access to books.  We said that books should not be removed from store shelves, libraries, and schools because of the personal feelings of a few people.  And yet, that is exactly what happened here.  A few people removed books that they personally found offensive rather than allow the rest of us to make that decision for ourselves.

If we are going to speak out against banning books, then we need to be against banning ALL books.  That  means even those that we find to be racist, politically incorrect, offensive, and inappropriate.  I am glad that this young girl has been taught to voice her opinion and stand up for her beliefs.  But I am also afraid that this has only served to teach her that her opinion is the only one that matters.    


hopeinbrazil said...

Hear, hear!

Hannah said...

This post has resonated with me quite strongly. You might should a shout-out in my next blog post :)

bookwormans said...

Thanks, Hannah! I don't usually use this blog as a soapbox since books are so subjective, but I simply couldn't let this one go.

Hannah said...

I've mentioned you in this post. I hope you'll like what I've written! :)I've also noticed a typo in my first comment. Gah!

bookwormans said...

Thanks for the shout out, Hannah! Great post!