Ah, it is the last week of September. And even if I am not an American, I still know this is an important time. Namely, the time of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week.
In case you are alarmed, this isn’t a week when a black van drives from one library to another, filling up with every stop — no, quite the opposite: a week promoting and presenting various books that have been banned or challenged, and raising awareness of such evil activity. Censorship and book-banning are some of the things that I’m ready to use that ridiculously powerful word ‘evil’ for; they are so heinous that they almost reach book-burning, the absolute pinnacle of villainy.
I am convinced that given enough time people will wisen up and improve, but only if they’re educated. Here educated simply means given all possible information, and all possible tools to evaluate and process it. Books are windows to other minds, and if they are locked up and other fountains of knowledge bricked over, our minds will shrivel and starve like a garden without sunlight or water.
ALA’s most challenged books are for a large part books for children or youths, and that troubles me. Sure, your child will stay obeisant and upright if you separate her from all violence and sex, all knowledge of pain and growing up, from all tastes of variety and danger — but such an upright child will then fall down when brushed with a feather, faint with the first sight of blood.
I’d much rather have every child aware of all adult topics, even if they are sad, scary or icky. How else will children grow up? They will meet those adult things sooner or later — sex, drugs, violence, lying, death, hate, booze, even (gasp!) other religions — and which would a sensible parent choose for her child: being quietly informed in advance, or meeting a pill-pusher with nothing but ignorant denial and a faint aura of forbidden excitement? A parent should teach her child thinking, not values and prejudices. If the child is brought up to be critical, sensible and inquisitive, then she will find a life that fits her, values that suit her, and no book can ever hurt her.
No, not even the Satanic Bible, or Harry Potter, or a youth novel with homosexuality, stealing, bad language (ooh!) and anti-family sentiments.