“They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air…” ~ David Bowie – 1984

So, I saw a display in our college library that made me so so so so so so so upset, angry, frustrated, and gobsmacked that I had to get up an hour early today to blawg about it.

Now excuse me for asking, but is this 2021? Seriously. Are we living in 2021 or 1921? 1821? Are we living in the United States (or other wonderful countries…I have my peeps from around the globe!! 😍) or a communist state with total control over the media we consume? Does the American constitution not have a little something in it called ‘freedom of press’ which guarantees the right to report news or circulate opinion without censorship from the government? Hmmmm.

Anyhoot, I’m talking about banned books.

Let me say that again in case you thought you were having some episode while reading it and didn’t get it: I’m talking about banned books as well as ‘challenged’ or ‘restricted’ books. The difference? A ‘challenge’ is an attempt to remove or restrict books based on the objections of a person/group while ‘banning’ is actually removing the books. But no matter what nomenclature you use, the result is the same: people NOT being able to have access to books of their choice in the schools and libraries in the areas in which they live.

I was going to give you a list of all the banned books (that’s the term I’m going to stick with) but honestly, if I typed them all out, I would be getting carpal tunnel surgery within weeks and I’d prefer not to do that. So, here’s the link to the 156 books on the 2020 list. Grab yourself a cup of tea (or in my case, and nice wine cooler so I can remain as calm as possible 😳 ) and start perusing.

One reason given for banning Anne Frank was because it’s a ‘downer and depressing’. I kid you not. Also because of sexual scenes which is Anne experiencing puberty: making jokes about it and talking about her development.

Anyhoot, on this gem of a list, we have titles such as ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ (God forbid we learn about the holocaust from a teenage girl living in captivity), ‘I Know why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (quite the rabble rouser whose autobiography talks about racism and her own experience being sexually assaulted as a child…2 things we should never talk or learn more about). ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini since it contains ‘offensive’ language, religious viewpoints, and…gasp…sexual situations. ‘The Glass Castle’ by Jeannette Walls because her autobiography has abuse and ‘sexual scenes’ in which an older man tries to undress Jeannette and a woman shows her freaking bra. And finally, ‘The Holy Bible’ for religious viewpoints. Well hells bells…who would read the bible (or for that matter, any religious tome like the Quran which is also banned) for a ‘religious’ viewpoint? I just like learning about all the begatting that went on.

Mind you, these books aren’t banned everywhere…but are banned in areas just the same: public libraries, schools and their libraries, and even in ACADEMIA. You know, the place where we are supposed to open our minds to everything. Right.

So…parents are the first to initiate the process of banning books. Nice. Why in the world would they want their little darlings exposed to things such as racism, diversity, disabilities, drug addiction, mental illness,and LGBTQ issues (all of which represent the vast majority of books banned)? Much better to keep them ignorant. OH WAIT! They are exposed to it…all over freaking social media which parents let their kids absorb like sponges. The ALA’s found this: “Books that talked about racism and racial justice — or told the stories of people of color or the LGBTQ community — were among the most challenged as inappropriate for students in 2020.” Charmed, I’m sure.

Now let me get this straight…parents initiate the process of banning books that are classics in terms of their writing, themes, etc. but allow their girls to twerk on Tik-Tok for views, dress in clothes I’ve seen as being too skimpy for call girls to wear, watch Kendall Jenner make an ass out of herself by solving racism with a fucking Pepsi, being introduced to porn at the average age of 11 because of all the unsupervised time kids have online, and seeing people have sex and get murdered in movie after movie. OK…that’s all well and good. But for the love of all that’s holy, ban the books. I understand now. 🙄

And schools? Look…as an educator for 30 years I’m here to tell you this: it’s NOT my job to tell my students WHAT they should believe. It’s my job to give my students the ability to DISCOVER what’s out there that will give them a view of the world much much bigger than what is said in a classroom. There’s a difference there…huh?

Another frightening thought? According to the ALA, surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media. So…more can be added to this extensive list anytime.

But at least children’s books are safe. What could be wrong with ‘Hop on Pop’ by Dr. Seuss or ‘A Light in the Attic’ by Shel Silverstein? Apparently, ‘Hop in Pop’ has been challenged because it could encourage kids to be violent against their dads and a poem in the Silverstein collection called “How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes” obviously encourages messiness and disobedience. Then, there’s ‘My Mom is Having a Baby’ which shows where babies come from. The horror of that is more than I can stand. That’s why O still thinks it’s the stork that brought him to me. Peeps, you can’t make this shit up.

Why am I crying over this? Why did seeing the display of the banned books bring tears to my eyes? Because of this: we need other opinions. We need to hear voices that our different from ours. We need to walk in someone elses shoes. We need to understand that our perceptions aren’t the only perceptions out there. We need to live in a society where we can write and publish what we want to say. We need to be able to talk about race…mental illness…disabilities…LGBTQ issues…without barriers. We need all viewpoints. What we need is books.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? We need books. No one should be able to tell anyone what they can and can’t read. What they should or shouldn’t read. What is available or not available to them at public libraries. Even kids and young adults. Look, I know there are books out there that younger kids simply should not read and of course there needs to be guidance for what a child is ready or not ready for. But isn’t that a parents decision to make for their own child? If O wanted to read something above his understanding, we talked about it…had a conversation, and I made the judgment call myself. I do trust that most books written at certain levels are OK, but I don’t trust the same with what kids consume on social media and believe me, they consume a lot more on that platform than in the pages of a book. I truly don’t believe ‘Hop on Pop’ is going to scar kids forever and reading ‘Anne Frank’ is going to cause young girls to become depressed and sexually active. Look, books open doors for all of us…young and old. And, we can choose to walk through that door or not. But that choice should be ours…and ours alone.

Kristi xoxo