September 30th, 2009


Middling on banned books (and reading) and various random things...

This is banned books week. I'm sure it's no surprise that I read banned books (at least, I hope it isn't). I not only read the popular banned books (Harry Potter, which were banned because of witchcraft and undermining the family -- Collapse )) but also many that probably most people (um, not other readers, of course) haven't even heard of. The majority of books I read which are banned are GLBT books. Not all of these have been banned yet, but since so many people seem to protest homosexuality, I'm guessing many will receive some kind of warning/banning.

Here are a few I like:
Ash, by Malinda Lo -- a beautiful retelling of Cinderella;
Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger -- how a boy finds his place in high school;
Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan -- a story where all types of teenage relationships are investigated;
Sprout, by Dale Peck -- a grittier book about what it means to love and trust (and being able to admit it);
The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson -- a great book about three girls and their evolving relationships with each other and the rest of the world;
The Hook-Up Artist, by Tucker Shaw -- a fun (yet compassionate) story about two friends in love with the same boy.
ETA: And an author who writes some tough-to-read but very important books on various difficult topics: Julie Ann Peters.

The thing about these books is that those of us who aren't gay can't necessarily know what it's like to live a lifestyle which is so frowned upon by way too many people (and yet, we all -- every human -- should know what it's like to want to give and receive love...but I won't go into that, because I'll just start ranting like a lunatic) -- unless we can walk a mile in those shoes through books. How else can we learn and understand? What bothers me most about banned books is that usually the reason for banning them is actually the reason we should be reading them -- we need to expand our own lives, to experience something new in a safe and compassionate way. Certainly there are books out there which are not as valuable as others -- but the reasons these books are banned has little to do with value and everything to do with fear.

As a parent (and a former teacher), I think books are wonderful, amazing, a gift from God. Through books, we get to experience something different from our own lives -- and if that 'difference' doesn't fit into our comfort zone, all the better. Because then we can talk about it and discuss what we believe or hope or contemplate -- and maybe, just maybe, we'll learn a little compassion and understanding and begin to see the humanity in all of us...find some common ground. As I've told parents in the past (when teaching), it's fine if you don't want your children reading this or that book -- but don't make that choice for all of us.

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Happy middle of the week (and the final day of September -- can't believe it's over already)!