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#BannedBooksWeek: Why Banning Books is Wrong (& Better Solutions)

Categories: Brian Klems' The Writer's Dig Tags: Brian Klems, online editor blog.

This week I helped celebrate #BannedBooksWeek by moderating a Google On Air panel of popular authors discussing why banning books does a disservice to readers everywhere (Man, Google, you picked THAT screengrab of my giant head as the promo image? Sorry about that folks.). Anyway, the discussion led to some amazing points about the problems with banning books, other solutions to dealing with kids reading mature content and why parents should put less emphasis on getting books banned and more emphasis on reading with their kids. Watch and enjoy.

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4 Responses to #BannedBooksWeek: Why Banning Books is Wrong (& Better Solutions)

  1. Elvenfoot says:

    I’m coming late to the party, but I wanted to offer some thoughts. I appreciated hearing how YA authors view the whole idea of banning books, and I do agree that banning is not the answer. It is a dangerous thing to do in a free society and couldn’t be more un-American. Therefore, even though I am disgusted by some of the YA novels I have read (which is quite a lot) and hope my kids never open them, I would never ban them from the public square. The issue of appropriateness, however, is a big concern for me, though, since I am a mother in a conservative, religious family.

    What really stood out to me in the video is the seeming lack of understanding for parent concerns about what is being fed to their kids under the guise of entertainment. I have only read one novel by an author in your panel, so this isn’t a direct slam on your panel’s work, but no one seemed to acknowledge that parents have legitimate concerns about some of the content authors deem appropriate, except for Jamie Ford at the end. I think that some parents just don’t know what to do other than to try to ban some of the material that is available today, because authors are thumbing their noses at all that is generally (at least traditionally) considered inappropriate for kids.

    YA authors also don’t seem to understand how powerful words and ideas can be. They feel a swear word or sex scene or whatever isn’t that big of a deal, that no one ever had their views changed because of something they said. But I am telling you from personal experience that literature, movies, and other storytelling media are incredibly powerful. I am still haunted by things (even isolated details) that I have read and seen in books and movies/theater in the past, and they have impacted my mental and emotional life. What you write can have a long-term effect that your young readers won’t grasp at the time.

    I understand that your answer is that parents need to be involved and that they need to read with their kids and discuss problematic material. In theory this sounds great. In fact, it is really the only answer for parents, since this is America and authors do have the legal (if not the ethical) right to say what they want. However, this ideal solution is largely impractical. I simply do not have time to read every book my five kids want to read or ask friends or research a lot of reviews or discuss my kids’ thoughts on the books, etc. Most parents are like me, too; we are working, doing errands, dealing with homework and extracurriculars, and a million other things. Parents who have the kind of time to do what you suggest are either homeschool parents or they have a lifestyle different from most of us. More power to them.

    So from an ideal point of view, you are right in the sense that it is the parent’s responsibility to oversee their kids’ choices. From a practical point of view, though, it is distressing that authors so blithely ignore parent concerns and criticize us instead, because most of us can’t do what you suggest. I am not suggesting that authors need to be accountable to some kind of parent voting system before a book is published, and I realize that teens are all at different levels of maturity and life experience. It would be nice, though, if authors tried to meet us at least part of the way when they craft their stories. A character, for example, can say “Jeez” or some other non-blasphemous expletive, instead the deeply offensive and hurtful “Jesus Christ.” I am a writer, too, and I understand the need for truth in a story, but I think that for YA authors that has become a way too handy excuse these days.

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