Banned books, what are we protecting our children from?

I’m back! Yes, I have no doubt many of you have wondered what happened to my blog. I’ve even gotten a couple of nice e-mails from followers telling me that I’ve been missed. I truly appreciate my readers (all of you) and I should have posted long ago. But the thing is, I’ve not had a lot to say lately.

You’d think with everything going on I’d have something to say, but honestly, I’m tired and numb; tired and numb from all of the political bullshit that continues to pile up on a weekly basis. Tired and numb from the hard stand people are taking when it comes to religious rights and gun rights. And I am truly numb as those who profess to be Christian are screaming about gun rights the loudest.

What will it take for us as a nation to put aside our ideological differences to work together to effect the much-needed change our society needs? Right now Congress seems more concerned with women’s reproductive rights than the people’s right to live in a safe society. What more is there to say? What can be said, when every attempt at a thoughtful conversation only leads to people yelling behind their wall of belief and fear? Belief and fear that any attempt at sensible gun control will lead to all guns being taken away, belief and fear that any attempt to ensure that all people have equal rights will lead to some kind of war on Christianity. Those who hide behind such walls drag the rest of us down to their level because we cannot enter in meaningful dialog. We are getting nowhere fast it seems. And because of this, I am tired and numb. I had to leave the circus for a while and attempt to find some measure of peace. I am not sure I’ve succeeded, but I haven’t banged my head against a wall for a few months now. So, that’s something I guess.

So, instead of coming back ranting about current events, or trying to tie a history lesson to today’s ills, I thought I would share a (kinda) funny story, because this, I swear, could only happen to me.

As part of Banned Book Week, the Carson City library put a call out to people willing to come in and read from a selection of banned books. The reading (I thought) would be audio taped for a later presentation and celebration of books. I signed up as I don’t believe banning books is ever a good idea (well, except for Twilight, but that should go unsaid).

I showed up on the appointed day only to find that we would be filmed while reading! I dislike being filmed(no I am scared of it), but swallowed my fear of the camera for the greater good. I also realized to my horror that in my attempt to get to the library on time, I forgot my reading glasses. Sometimes I question my ability to leave the house fully groomed.

While waiting my turn I quickly looked at the stack of books, hoping to find something with big print. I did not want to be filmed squinting or hesitating as I tried desperately to read the text. I found what I was looking for in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I remembered reading it several years ago, and in fact bought it for my son. It had big(ish) print and I could not imagine a better young adult book to illustrate the power of books. For those of you who are not familiar with Alexie’s work, he is a writer and filmmaker who shines a light on the plight of the modern Native American in humors and heartbreaking detail. This particular story is told by an unnamed narrator who talks about life in and out of the reservation. His characters are drawn from Alexie’s own friends and family and he breathes so much life into them that they quickly become the reader’s friends and family. I think Alexie is very underrated. I picked his book not only because I could see the text, but also because he has much to teach us.

So as I was called to get up in front of the camera, I quickly scanned the book to find an appropriate passage to read from. I was told I only had 3 minutes, so whatever I picked, it had to have context; it had to be a 3 minute short story. I saw that chapter 4 started with the narrator talking about his first day of high school. Brilliant, I thought! This would work, as it would speak to young adults about social fears (I thought) and could be read as a short story.

Behind the camera stood a quiet, seemingly shy young man (he looked high school age) who said he would tell me when to start and stop. I had been directed to state my name, the name of the book and why it was banned. So when the young man motioned me to start I said:

My name is Sari Nichols, and I am reading at the Carson City library. The book I chose is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; one of my favorite books. It was banned because it talks about poverty, masturbation, and is anti-Christian.

Then I began to read from the book. I tried very hard to be “camera friendly”. I memorized a few sentences at a time so that I would be looking up more than I was looking down. As I read from the page it became clear I had inadvertently picked a passage that illustrated why someone had deemed it ban worthy. Oh shit, I thought, as I continued to read, do I stop or do I own the words? Do I say sorry, thus giving in to the idea that this book should be banned or do I continue, showing the world (or whoever watches this video that this is a part of the human condition and should be embraced?) I looked past the camera for a split second and saw that the two librarians were laughing! One was laughing so hard she was bent over in her chair. My decision was made; I owned the words, stressing them as if they came forth from my head and burst from my mouth. And why not? It’s the truth, not matter how much we blush to think about it. I do however feel for the young man behind the camera who looked the other way. I don’t know if he was laughing or was horrified. I’d like to believe he laughed… but I did notice he cut me off rather quickly.

Here is part of what I read

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

I was fourteen and it was my first day of high school. I was happy about that. And I was most especially excited about my first geometry class. Yep, I have to admit that isosceles triangles make me feel hormonal.

Most guys, no matter what age, get excited about curves and circles, but not me. Don’t get me wrong. I like girls and their curves. And I really like women and their curvier curves. I spend hours in the bathroom with a magazine that has one thousand pictures of naked movie stars:

Yep, that’s right, I admit that I masturbate. I’m proud of it. I’m good at it. I’m ambidextrous. If there were a Professional Masturbators League, I’d get drafted number one and make millions of dollars. And maybe you’re thinking, “Well, you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public.” Well, tough, I’m going to talk about it because EVERY-BODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it. And if God hadn’t wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn’t have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs.

When I finished one of the librarians came over (the one who was bent over laughing) and asked if I had deliberately picked that passage. I sighed and said no, it was just dumb luck. Thankfully she thought I did a good job at making the passage come alive and had the courage to do so. It did not take courage but encouragement, and the willingness of others to stand for what is right. Books should not be banned because they may teach young adults about things “better left unsaid”, whether that be about poverty or masturbation. But sadly, this is America today. Many try to shield their children from unspoken truths, because their walls do not allow them to, because their truths would crumble under the weight of thoughtful conversations.

 

This is America today.

059fe9d-2.cachedGuess I just jumped back into the circus. Cue the music!

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

1 thought on “Banned books, what are we protecting our children from?”

  1. Well, I don’t think you could have made the point any clearer, Sari: a woman reading about a legally-underaged boy discussing masturbation. That would probably get you jail time in some countries, and kill your social standing in much of the United States.

    So, congratulations are in order. I think the closest I’ve ever come to what you felt was the time I wrote an orgy scene into a story . . . and then found out one of my friends had passed it on to her parents! Fortunately, they have their own standards, and those standards don’t include banning books.

    Liked by 2 people

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