Challenge: Read a Banned (or Challenged) Book This Week

It won’t be hard to find one. They’re as common as salt, really.

Challenges come from all states, from individuals and organizations, from both ends of the political spectrum. Here’s a list of last year’s most frequently challenged authors:Lauren Myracle, Kim Dong Hwa, Chris Crutcher, Carolyn Mackler, Robert Greene, Sonya Sones, Dori Hillestad Butler, Sherman Alexie, Suzanne Collins, Aldous Huxley, Harper Lee, Eric Jerome Dickey, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Dav Pilkey, Cecily von Ziegesar.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Captain Underpants rubbing, um, elbows with high school curriculum classics, middle grade series titles, YA novels, comic books.  Something to displease just about anyone, it seems. Which is why the American Library Association’s been observing Banned Books Week for 30 years now.

Here’s Bill Moyers on the subject.

I asked Marion Dane Bauer to share her own experience in this area. She wrote back:

Yes, I’ve had experience with being banned . . . my books, I mean, not me.  Curiously enough, the book I know the most about in that regard is On My Honor.  (If Am I Blue? has ever been banned the information didn’t filter back to me.  I have a feeling that one has gotten a pass because it is so obvious up front what it is.)  The interesting thing about On My Honor’s being banned is that I could tell from more than one incident that the people wanting it banned weren’t talking about their real issues.  They objected to language.  There is a hell and a damn in there, also a frigging, which doesn’t usually get mentioned.  I am quite certain, though, that real objection was to the discussion at the end of the story about whether or not there is a heaven.  Dad doesn’t give Joel the “right” answer which would be, “Yes, Joel.  Of course there’s a heaven and if Tony believed in God he’s there now.”  He says instead, “If there’s a heaven, I’m sure Tony is there now.  I can’t imagine a heaven that would be closed to charming, reckless boys.”  What having that book rather publicly banned a number of times taught me was, when writing for middle grade, anyway, to take great care with language.  It’s not that I was offended by having my book banned.  It puts a writer in such good company.  But rather if folks are going to ban a book of mine I want them to have to talk about what really offends them.  I don’t want to give the banner an easy out by giving them a damn or hell to latch onto instead.

Relative to this, I asked: Do you have anything to say to writers on the subject of courage in writing? This is what she said.

Truly good writing can happen only when a writer is being honest with herself and with her audience.  Any hiding, any covering over of difficult topics, any refusal on the part of the writer to plumb your own heart shows in work that lacks resonance.  Having courage in what you write and how you write isn’t easy, but in the long run it’s the only way to survive.

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