Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ban my book -- please. Banned Book Week

Book banning. Those two words carry so much impact. It's almost visceral to me. I'm someone who, when they move and I have too many books (I know, right?) can't get himself to throw away a book. I'll box it up and take it to the library and donate it before I'll throw it away... which is illogical as I'm boxing it up to take it to the library to avoid boxing up and taking it to a new place to live. But books are important to me.

Books are ideas. They're time travel. They're a psychic connection between the author and the reader across time and space. Stephen King talked about that in his book, On Writing and he's right. Of course he gets it. He's a master at it.

This week is Banned Books Week.

As a reader the idea appalls me. As a writer it angers me. There are people out there, a lot of people, who will decide a book doesn't need to be read by you for you. Some of these people haven't even read the books they're deciding you shouldn't read. The whole Harry Potter series, an excellent series from a story-telling point of view, and from the point of view that it created a mythology for a generation of kids. It engaged those kids who hadn't been readers and turned then into readers. It reinvigorated the Young Adult genre in a way nothing had in years. But, there are those out there who think that all those things are Bad Ideas and so nobody should be exposed to them.

I respect parents being aware of what their kids are reading and that's great, but that's not what we're talking about. When I was growing up there were books my parents would tell me were maybe too old for me. They would offer explanations for parts I didn't understand if I had questions. But they never said that I shouldn't read it. They might suggest alternative books and say I should wait a while to read one but they never banned one.

I've written a book that, if all goes according to plan, I'll release in the first half of October. I hope someone wants it banned. It means they've read it. It means I've presented a challenging idea. It means I've challenged what they think about the world and I'm an author. It feels good to say that. But part of what makes a book great to me is if it a) entertains b) doesn't bore, and c) changes the way I think about things. A good book will do two out of three of those things. A mediocre book will do one of those things.

Three of the most challenged books of last year, 2011 are:
The Hunger Games Trilogy (I know, it's more than one book. Leave me alone.),
Brave New World, and
To Kill a Mockingbird.

It's 2012 and they're still challenging To Kill a Mockingbird and Brave New World. Seriously?

Nothing would make me happier than to be on a list with those books. They're great books. They change the way people think. When my book comes out I hope you'll give it a read and I hope, as long as I live here that you're able to read it. I don't mind if you object to it. I don't mind if it doesn't entertain you (but I hope it does) but I do mind if you try and tell other people they shouldn't give it a read because you're afraid of the ideas in it. My book's not anything like those three. But it IS similar to Chris Crutcher's stuff and if you've never read his you should. I really enjoyed Deadline. It was the first of his books that I read & it made me a convert.

Check out the lists of books people have petitioned to have banned and give them a look. If the ideas in them scare people they're probably powerful ideas and they could stand to be shared.
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