It’s banned books week. Most of you know what that means (if you don’t, check out the link) and I can’t really add to what other smart writers, librarians, and book lovers have already said about the crappiness that is censorship (and I certainly can’t say it any better than Judy Blume), so I’m going to talk about one of the most banned and challenged books out there, written by the amazing Judy herself:
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET
Who didn’t love this book? The real and honest coming of age story of a girl as she navigates her way through puberty, including menstroooation, boys, changing bodies and her questions about God and faith. I loved this book so much as a kid that I remember reading it and re-reading it until it was tattered and dog-eared. I understood everything that Margaret was going through because so much of it was the same as what I was going through. There was nothing shocking to me about this book when I read it, I just thought it was a great book about a regular girl, a girl just like me.
So color me surprised when I saw that it’s on lists of most-banned books. Some people apparently think it’s inappropriate for kids to read about STUFF THAT HAPPENS TO KIDS and STUFF THAT KIDS THINK ABOUT. Huh? Maybe I was sheltered from this book-banning business (ironic, no?) because as a kid, I was given books to read, and then, when I was older, I was taken into the bookstore and allowed to pick my own books. My mom, an avid reader herself, would be off on the other side of the store getting books by Danielle Steel, Norah Roberts and Jackie Collins, and I would be picking out my own books that I thought looked interesting. It was never an issue in our home. I somehow managed to pick books that were appropriate for me and no matter what I read, I was never scarred or harmed psychologically** and in the end, turned out to be a reasonably normal human who works and contributes to society, in what I hope is a positive way.
When I started writing books for a middle grade audience, I turned to MARGARET and read the book critically as an adult as research. And you know what? The book still holds up years, no decades later and I know that what makes it special and so relevant is its honesty.
I think it’s this honesty about the human condition that makes some people freak out and want to ban books. Or maybe it’s the fear that if people read about stuff, they’ll want to do it, you know, like how so many people read about Hannibal Lecter and want to go out and kill and eat people with a nice chianti. Either way, I think it’s a bad idea to run from honesty. Even if it’s not our own honesty, we can still learn from other people’s lives, even if they’re fictional, can’t we? Isn’t that what makes us able to sympathize with people different than us? Isn’t that what makes us human?
I know everyone reading this post is a book-lover, so please, this week more than ever, make sure you go out and read a book, ANY book you like, and be conscious and thankful that you have the freedom to do so.
And I`d love to hear about YOUR favorite banned or challenged book. Please share!
**Later, as a young adult, I was scarred and harmed psychologically by Stephen King’s Misery, but that’s a different story.