Ban a Book? Really?

It’s Banned Books Week. It’s a little disappointing that we, as a society built on freedoms, needs to acknowledge that we still have a problem in trying to censor material, particularly material that is part of the learning process.

Over on Twitter, the newly relaunched Reading Rainbow is soliciting stories from folks on their personal banning experience. Just check out @readingrainbow and their #BannedBooksWeek and #MyStory hashtags to see some of the tales being told. It is particularly surprising to see the role that some librarians, the very folks who should be protecting and promoting said books, have played in the process.

Which gets us to Eduflack’s tale. I remember it all quite well. When I was in elementary school, I was a huge fan of Judy Blume, I read any book that had her name on the cover. I loved them. Owned many of them, and read them over and over and over again.

One day, Eduflack went to the local library to check out one of Blume’s titles he didn’t have. The book? Are You There God?, It’s Me Margaret. If you are unaware of the book, go ahead and click on the title and check out the Wiki summary.

At any rate, the local librarian wouldn’t let me check the book out of the library. I had a library card. I hadn’t maxed out my checked out books yet. I had no overdue books. But I was blocked at the desk.

The librarian then placed a call to my mother. Yep, getting ratted out to my own mom. The librarian explained that I wanted to check out this book. She wasn’t going to let me, because she felt the book was inappropriate, both because of my age and because of my gender. My mom, a good liberal and a great English teacher, didn’t quite understand the problem. She told the librarian to let me have the book. There would be no book banning in the future Eduflack’s house.

Then dear ol’ mom went out and bought me the book, so I wouldn’t have future issues at the local library. I remember reading the book many times in the years after the incident. And somehow I managed to survive without any emotional scars or spiritual questions or concerns about my gender.

I’m always amazed by the books I see on the “banned” list here in the United States. Books that I adore and that have shaped my thinking and my life. Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men (a far better book than either version of the movie). Catcher in the Rye. Go Ask Alice. How to Eat Fried Worms. James and the Giant Peach. Lord of the Flies. A Wrinkle in Time. Most things written by Judy Blume … and by S.E. Hinton.

One of my favorite movies (and a damned good book by Christopher Buckley) is Thank You for Smoking. The protagonist is a tobacco lobbyist. When asked what he would do when his son was of age and wanted to smoke, he replies, “I’d buy him his first pack.”

That’s how I feel about banned books. Either of my kids want to read a title that a teacher or a librarian or a talking head says is inappropriate material for a child or teen, I’ll buy them their own copy. My mom did it for me. I’ll carry it forward.

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