Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yes, I Digress: Banned Books Week

I recently finished Looking for Alaska by John Green, and I really enjoyed it. (You'll see . . . in forthcoming review.) I went looking at his website afterwards to get an idea of what John Green is all about. Interesting fellow. I ran across, in his archives, a post he wrote two years ago about a school in New York that was planning on teaching his book, but had an outcry from the community. The school was going to send home permission slips, detailing controversial content, to parents and have them decide whether they would have their kids read the book. If the parents didn't want their kids reading the book, an alternative book would be given. But this wasn't what the "public" wanted; they insisted that it be banned. He does a pretty stellar job explaining it.

An interesting idea, banning. Honestly, I don't understand how these people even hear about these sorts of things. How they even know what's going on with a particular book. I mean, I consider myself a bookish person, and I'd never even heard of this one until about 6 months ago. In most cases, I would suspect they don't know firsthand, but instead heard from a friend who heard from a friend (etc, etc) that such and such a book was filth. Secondly, don't they know that banning a book is pretty much a sure fire way to make its popularity SOAR!? These are teenagers we're talking about here! What happens when you say: "You can't do that, I forbid it!"

Which brings me to another story. In high school, my class was reading Catcher in the Rye like every other 17 year old in the nation. I tried to hide it from my mom, being one of those kids who didn't like to stick out too much, but she was ready for this. I was the third child. She had A Separate Peace all dusted off and ready for me. I didn't relish in being the only kid "not allowed" to read Catcher in the Rye, but I went along with it. Unfortunately, the alternate had changed in the five years it took for me to get to 11th grade, and it was now Grapes of Wrath. My teacher handed me the tome much to my great displeasure.

Granted, I should have taken it as an opportunity to read a great Steinbeck novel, but instead I borrowed my best friend's copy of Catcher and read it on the sly. I was even brazen enough to take it out and read it in the middle of English class one day (since I was not participating in any class time involving the "banned" book), and I was found out. The coveted novel was taken away, and I got me and my friend in trouble. So, I've never actually read any of the three books, but this year, I'm going to do it--I'm going to read Catcher in the Rye. Every last banned word. (Sorry, mom!) It's going to feel so wicked!

Anyway, point being, banning a book produces the direct opposite effect of what people are going for! If they'd never banned it in the first place, people might not be itching to get their hands on a copy. That book might just become another unacknowledged gem that few find. But then, I guess we should be thanking those banners--for pointing out what we've been missing. Aladdin in the desert: a diamond in the rough.

So, this year I'm gearing up! I'm going to recognize that week in the fall. Mark your calendars for September 25 to October 2, and do something crazy and rebellious. Like reading a book. Read more about it here.


Angiegirl said...


And I'm sure this will come as a big surprise to you, but I love John Green. Picked up his new book today and I can't wait to start it.

Looking forward to your review of LOOKING FOR ALASKA!

Cam said...

Hey Angie! Nothing better than discovering a new author, right? =) I'm planning on picking up his other books, too.

Shelley said...

I'm not even a teenager, but seeing the controversy makes ME want to read it. His explanation actually makes me want my teen to read it.