Banned Books Week 2019
September 15, 2019 03:11 PM Posted by juliannadouglas
What do all of these books have in common?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Answer: At one time or another – perhaps even frequently over a period of many years – these and numerous other books have all been banned or challenged.
Are any of your favorites on the list? Do you remember any fondly from childhood? Or maybe you discovered and enjoyed them as an adult? Do you feel that your life is richer for having read them?
I know that many of my favorites can be found on the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual banned books list. Every time I’ve read a book from this list, thus far, it’s been a winner that I couldn’t imagine having not read, because I loved it so much. And there are many more from the list that I have on my TBR pile that I can’t wait to get to and would be sad if I didn’t get the opportunity to read them.
That’s why every year in September, I join the ALA in celebrating Banned Books Week. I think that everyone should have the chance to read whatever books they want to, which is why I stand against the censorship of books. That’s not to say that I don’t understand the reasons behind why some people are offended by certain books, and it’s certainly their prerogative to choose not read those tomes, But in my humble opinion, a person who tries to make the judgment call on what’s appropriate for others to read has crossed a line. You may ask, though, what about kids? Shouldn’t we make sure that inappropriate reading material don’t fall into the hands of children too young for it? Well, the way I see it, it’s the same principle. That’s a call for the parents of an individual child to make, but when that same parent tries to decide what’s right for other children who aren’t their own to read, again, I feel they’ve crossed a line.
The primary reason for my strong opinion on this matter can be summed up by this quote from Lyndon Baines Johnson who said, “Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance.” This is so true! Storytelling – whether fictional or biographical – is a powerful medium that can help us to understand our fellow human beings in ways that merely living our lives often can’t. It can help us to develop empathy, compassion, and tolerance for others who are different that we are. Books can also educate us on a myriad of topics if we just take the time to exercise our curiosity by reading, thereby combating ignorance and helping us to expand our minds in ways we might never have thought possible. I can’t even begin to list the things I’ve learned from reading, nor express how many worlds have been opened up to me through the pages of books. That’s why I value the right to read so dearly.
The ALA’s official celebration takes place during the week of September 22-28, but this post is going up early so I can include it in my monthly email newsletter. This year’s Banned Books Week tag line is “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On.” I encourage you to read a banned book this month. Perhaps you’ll find it illuminating. To help you get started, check out my social media feeds during Banned Books Week for more insights on banned/challenged books as well as a countdown of the top eleven banned/challenged books of 2018.
Now as part of my celebration I’m going to highlight and give away one of my favorite banned/challenged books, The Twilight Saga. I just finished a re-read of the entire series this year, so it’s fresh in my mind, making it a good time to feature it. The series ranked among the top 10 banned/challenged books for the years 2009 and 2010. My research turned up various reasons why these books have been challenged or banned, so here’s where I’ll offer my opinions on a few of these reasons.
1. Sexually Explicit – This complaint is pretty surprising, given that these are some of the more chaste romances I’ve read over the years. There is some mild to moderate sexual tension throughout the series especially in the latter books, but there’s no on-page sex. Bella and Edward wait until marriage, and although it’s clear that they’re having sex at that point, the actual act takes place behind “closed doors.” Also, all of the sexual content is couched in pretty delicate terms, so this is hardly what I would deem “sexually explicit.”
2. Violence – Yes, there is some violence, particularly in the final two books, but again, I don’t recall any over the top blood and gore, especially considering that both vampires and werewolves are involved in the story. A lot of the violence is more implied than spelled out in detail, so it’s really a matter of how imaginative the reader is. I didn’t find anything particularly gratuitous for the circumstances, though, or anything that should be a major issue for the intended audience.
3. Religious Viewpoint – This is one of the objections that’s left me perplexed. It’s a pretty well-known fact that the author is Mormon, so perhaps readers were merely objecting to that point alone, which is kind of silly if you ask me. I’m sure most authors tend to incorporate their morals and beliefs to some extent in their writing. (I know I do.) But at the same time, having Mormon friends and living in a state that is next-door to the most Mormon state in the US, I’m not entirely ignorant of their beliefs, and I didn’t find anything overtly religious about these books at all.
4. Unsuited to Age Group – This is entirely dependent on what age group we’re discussing here and unfortunately the ALA doesn’t log this specific detail. Do I think these books are appropriate for elementary age readers? No, of course not. However, I feel l that they’re entirely fine for high schoolers and up and also perhaps for some mature middle schoolers with parental or educator guidance. I seem to recall allowing my own daughter to begin reading them at about twelve or thirteen years of age with the stipulation being that she could only read one every six months, since I knew that the maturity level increases a bit with each book and figuring that by the time she reached the last one, she’d be ready for it. Your mileage may vary though, so I’d say simply use common sense in this regard.
While there are potential negatives in these stories, I also feel that there is a good balance of positive messages for young people as well. Both Bella and Edward have strong family connections. Even though Bella's relationship with her parents is less than ideal, there is still love and respect between them, and Edward has a very loving "family" by choice as well. I liked the development of Edward and Bella's romance, which demonstrated that while a couple can have an immediate and powerful physiological attraction to each other, it’s still possible and important to take the time to build a friendship first that is based on mutual trust, respect, and love, which is more than can be said for many adults. I also found additional admirable messages regarding self-sacrifice, self-control in all areas of life, respect for others, and simply trying to be the best person you possibly can be despite your circumstances. I do feel that there is a strong morality tale embedded with all the other elements in these books. I won’t go so far as to say that the books are right for everyone, because I know that they’re only going to appeal to a certain audience. But I can definitely say that there’s nothing in them that warrants them being banned.
So there you have it, my two cents on why The Twilight Saga is a great story that has found its way onto my keeper shelf, as well as my counter-arguments against the allegations made by those who wish to censor, challenge, and/or ban these book. For anyone who enjoys an angsty, teenage love story complete with supernatural creatures, I would encourage those people – as long as they’re teens and up – to give them a try if you haven’t already. And to help you achieve that, I’m giving away a the entire boxed set. Keep reading to learn how you can win it for your own library.
This gorgeous gift set--available for a limited time only--includes paperback editions of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner with exclusive white covers, making it the perfect gift for fans of the bestselling series.
Read my complete reviews of The Twilight Saga.
If you would like to win a copy of The Twilight Saga Box Set to see how wonderful it is for yourself, just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. One lucky winner will receive their choice of an eBook or print copy of the set. If the winner chooses an eBook, I will gift it to them via the eBook retailer of their choice (Amazon or B & N). If the winner chooses a print copy, I will have it mailed directly to them via Amazon. Good luck!
International Entrants: You are welcome to enter my contest, but please note that not all eBooks are available in all countries due to copyright restrictions. If this is the case, Amazon does offer an option to trade for a gift card (I'm not sure about B & N). If you choose print, I can mail it to you via the Amazon website that services your country, pending availability and cost. Otherwise I will mail it to you via U. S. Amazon's standard international shipping, but it may take up to 6-8 weeks to arrive, and I may not have the capability of tracking the package.
Tags: Banned Books Week, Stephenie Meyer