What Banned Books Mean to Young Writers

Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.

~Voltaire

This week is Banned Books Week, which you probably know because many authors are tweeting about it (especially those whose books have been banned) and newspapers are printing articles and editorials on the event.

What is Banned Books Week exactly?

It’s from September 25-October 2, 2010 this year, but it is an annual celebration that started in 1982 in response to all the books that have been challenged by schools and parents and libraries across the United States.

The books are banned for a range of reasons from too much violence, racism, profanity, sexual content, witchcraft–pretty much anything you can think of, someone has an issue with.

In 2009, the most challenged books according to the American Library Association were the Twilight series, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, TTYL series, To Kill a Mockingbird, My Sister’s Keeper, The Chocolate War,The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,The Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple and And Tango Makes Three.

Stop right there–To Kill a Mockingbird? You mean that classic book of literature that kids read all over the country in school and sparked an Academy-award winning movie?

Yep, even classic books are not safe from banning.

One of the most ironic banning is of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which is about censorship of books!! Craziness!

It’s really scary to think that anyone can stop others from reading books that they don’t approve of. After all that hard work those writers put in to create these meaningful stories and get them published, there are people who think it’s okay to silence their thoughts and words because they are “inappropriate” or “offensive.”

I mean, can you imagine a world without the Harry Potter series?

Everyone should have the freedom to read and write. Writing is expressing your voice, your self, your creativity. It’s already hard enough to do without people telling you that writing is stupid or a waste of time or not going to get you anywhere in life. It’s obviously important to think about the book you are writing and whether or not you are being unnecessarily offensive or insensitive, because words do have power. They make a difference.

But the problem is what one person deems insensitive could be perfectly normal and acceptable to another person and who determines who is right? Every individual deserves the chance to choose and monitor what is appropriate to read. Parents have the responsibility for their own children, but not over everyone else’s children.

You also shouldn’t abuse that responsibility for preventing children from reading books that you don’t agree with. It’s important to read things from other perspectives and opinions, even if they are harsh, critical or not so nice. The world can be a dark place, but you have to face the facts of reality and open your eyes and mind.

Now I’m not saying I approve of needless or gratuitous profanity and sex and violence etc. in books. Those things bother me in real life, but in literature those things have their time and place in books because they happen in real life. I find most of the books banned that cite those reasons above are completely relevant and purposeful for the plot– it has a point! We need to stop acting like kids are indoctrinated by books and not by their surroundings in everyday life.

When we have a free market of ideas, we will get that much closer to the truth, to enlightenment, to passion, to understanding. Censorship destroys that important opportunity for the world of writers and readers to discover and discuss information with one another.

The authors of banned books fight back with education, reading events, positivity, community rallying and letter writing during this week. You can also help out by reading some of these banned books and spreading the word that censorship shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s also good to here the other side though to understand why groups who are pro-censorship think that way and the actions they plan to take.

So if young writers take anything away from Banned Books Week, it’s should be this–don’t give up. Don’t let the banning of books and censorship scare you from writing the book that you are meant to write. Remember that knowledge is power, so don’t take it lightly.

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