I’m on vacation, which means that I am supposed to be giving my brain a bit of a break from all things work, but that’s not happening because:
- I still have to work on clients’ stories
- The world is ridiculous
- I have a work ethic/neurosis that every month makes me constantly worried that I won’t earn enough money to support my family
That’s not what this post is about, but it’s probably something you can relate to because not all of you think you can relate to banned books. But you probably can.
Think of your favorite tv show, book, video, TikToker, YouTuber, podcast, movie:
- Are they straight? Cis-gendered? Only have cis-gendered friends?
- Are they all white (the European descended kind of white)?
- Never swear?
- Never deal with sexual situations, kissing, allude to sex?
- Not know what Marxism is?
If they don’t, then those people’s creative products are considered ‘inappropriate’ and have ‘no education value,’ by this book-banning parents.
I can’t speak to every book on that list. I do know about my book, my first book published, which won a ton of awards given out because it’s a pretty awesome book.
Back when it was released in 2007 some bookstores (not the big ones) didn’t want to stock it because it had the word ‘gay’ in the title. Amazing, right?
Apparently, we’re back in 2007 again.
This book was inspired because I couldn’t wrap my head around a local hate crime that happened in a high school. I tried to write my way through that. It’s not my most popular book, but it’s my most stolen-from-libraries book. There’s a reason for that. A lot of girls (at the time I wrote it) where feeling alone as they tried to navigate their way through a break-up with their boyfriends who had either come out during or after their relationships. My book helped not only them but also their ex-boyfriends create discourse, to feel less alone.
That’s what books do: they make us feel less alone.
And they also teach us through the safe distance of pages what it’s like to live through situations and lives and settings and conflicts that we might not live through ourselves. They build empathy, make us think. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes they make such big emotions and thoughts that people who are frightened want to burn them.
My book also features a main character who has epilepsy, but epilepsy isn’t the theme, the driving force, or defining trait of my character. It didn’t give her superhero powers or make her suddenly embarrassed. It was just something that was part of her. And that is why this book, my first published book, will always be important to me. I wanted to push beyond the epilepsy and disability tropes in fiction even as another kids book full of epilepsy tropes won one of children’s fiction’s highest honors within the next couple of years.
Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to do on a lot of levels.
Here’s the thing:
Books are easy to ban and burn because books are brave. They put thoughts and views and images of our culture, stories of our peoples, out in print—unable to be truly retracted, mistakes and all, grit and all, pain and all.
You can’t erase pain from our kids’ lives, but you can erase books from them.
You can’t erase experiences and thoughts from our kids’ lives, but you can pretend to by banning books.
But what you can do is push your beliefs down upon an entire generation so that they don’t have the intellectual or emotional room to build up their own.
That’s a bit of a lie though.
Kids are resilient. They are strong. They are thinkers. And they will scavenge out the stories that they need to hear, to be exposed to, to cling to. The thing is that we should trust them enough that they don’t have to scavenge. We should trust them enough to give them the stories that they need.
And banning books? Yanking them out of school libraries? That’s the kind of crap that means that we don’t trust our own parenting and our own kids’ brains to make their own choices, to ask us questions if they find books are inappropriate, to be able to talk through differences and examine thoughts and life and what it is to be human rather than just laying down edicts about what is appropriate and what isn’t for entire school districts, instead of just our own kids.
And that’s pretty sad.
Maybe if we all spent a little less time crusading against each other, we could spend a little more time teaching our kids that we are safe people for them to talk to if a book offends them or makes them question how things are done or confuses them. Maybe if we spent a little less time focusing on our own fears, we can all start lifting each other—and students—up together.
The link to the list is here. Yes, I know I’m in good company. I’m always in good company on these lists. The other authors are in good company, too.