Ban the Banners
The fabulous Jo Knowles has started a meme in honor of Banned Books Week and #speakloudly, which goes a little something like this:
1. Go find your favorite banned book.
2. Take a picture of yourself with said book.
3. Give that book some love by explaining why you think it is an important book.
4. Post it to your blog.
5. Spread the word!
I have too many favorites to have a favorite, and I'm not situated to take a picture at the moment… so we'll sort of skip 1 and 2. However, one of my favorite challenged books when I was in high school was also one of the first true YA books I ever fell in love with: Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat (and the rest of the series–Witch Baby and Missing Angel Juan are my faves).
Block's books were wildly inventive and delicious, especially for a girl living in extremely small town Kentucky. I found out about them from my beloved Sassy magazine, and our wonderful, brave school librarian–who frequently asked me for suggestions on things to order–got the whole set. They stayed checked out. These were books girls told each other about, that so many people in that small town high school fell in love with. And why?
Because they didn't hold back. Because Block's world was a free one, where gay people weren't stigmatized, where families could be odd but still work, where there was room to screw up and make mistakes without ruining all life forever. You can't fool teenagers, and we knew these books were honest. Plus? They were stylistic fireworks. Block's voice was a whole new thing; she was telling flamboyantly fabulist stories about the emotionally real.
The idea of someone banning these effervescent parables of acceptance and individuality? Is ludicrous. There's not a hateful, negative thing in them, though there are characters dealing with hateful, tough, negative life stuff. And I'm truly grateful we had access to these books, not a little because my amazing mother–our principal–was against blocking and removing books and never allowed it to happen during her tenure. There's a reason they were always checked out: We needed them.
And it makes me angry beyond reason to think about teens anywhere being denied access to these, or any other books, because an adult has decided it's better to steal them off the shelves. I think these would-be banners know that the enclosed worlds they're trying to construct really are that fragile–fragile enough to be destroyed by one honest book. Keep reading what scares them.
p.s. I kind of love this tumblr.