Saturday, 21 September 2013

Banned Books Week Rant & a GIVEAWAY!

This year the Banned Books week event hosted by Sheila at Book Journey is taking place a week earlier than usual, and I thought I'd extend last years' rant into something more personal. As usual I was meant to be reading a banned book but haven't managed to finish it and so instead I'm going to talk about some of the most frequently challenged books (according to the American Library Association; aside from the whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing you don't hear too much about banning here in the UK thank goodness!) of 2012-2013. These books are all books that I've really enjoyed or which have affected me in some way, and bear in mind that these are only the books from one year - there are a hell of a lot more of my most influential books which have been banned or challenged in the past!

Firstly: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood was challenged as required reading for high school students but not banned, for being "sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt". Admittedly I'm well overdue on a reread of this, but when I first read it as a teenager (I think I was about 15 or so) I don't remember it being needlessly sexually explicit or violently graphic. Atwood usually doesn't put things in her books for them to just be there; there is generally a point to it. Also I love when things are accused of being 'morally corrupt'. What does that even mean? Just because a book doesn't preach a certain morality and ram it down your throat doesn't mean that it has no morals. A lot of books (and this is definitely one of them!) encourage you to start thinking about certain issues for yourself and working out what your own opinions are. How can that be a bad thing to teach teenagers? 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky was also challenged by not banned in Ohio for dealing with alcohol, sex, homosexuality and abuse. So if a book contains issues which affect teenagers, they should be banned from reading it? Obviously if you stop them reading the book none of them will ever drink, have sex or be gay. If you don't let them read about abuse they won't know that it happens. Of course. I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time this year after seeing the amazing film and I thought they were both just beautiful pieces of storytelling, and captured brilliantly the way teenagers can be affected by things, and also a lot of what it feels like to be a teenager. It would be lovely if nothing shit ever happened to anybody, but let's be honest that's probably never going to be the case and so how does pretending that it is help?

Looking for Alaska by John Green was banned as required reading for high school students for its' use of 'inappropriate language'. I literally cannot get my head around this. I just read Looking for Alaska this year, and there is no language in it that your average teenager wouldn't hear walking down the street or hanging out in McDonalds! Also, because people in books talk a certain way that doesn't mean the people reading the books have to speak that way? Although this wasn't my favourite of John Green's novels so far, I did really enjoy it and again it has subject matter which could be helpful to people going through certain situations.

And finally, the one that absolutely blew my mind. Drumroll please!.......
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was removed from Chicago high schools for various silly reasons. I have quoted directly from the list for this as the students basically kicked ass and got the book reinstated. Here's what they did:
As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually, the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.
Quoted from

I love this! I just reread my own review of Persepolis from when I first read it over two years ago and my final thought on it was that I loved the quote about how you have to educate yourself. This is just basically a direct illustration of that, and of every point I've been trying to make in this post. Banning books is silly - by banning a book you are not going to stop the issues it addresses from existing, nor are you going to stop your children from coming into contact with them. Instead of getting hysterical about things and trying to have them banned, try having an honest discussion. Kids aren't stupid and they usually appreciate not being treated like morons.

As it's a banned books week event and I want to CELEBRATE our right to read, I'm offering you a chance to win your choice of one of the four books I've mentioned above :-D To enter all you have to do is to fill in the form! I will pick a winner one week from today, and you can live anywhere the unholy shop of evil (aka Amazon) ships to. Enjoy!


  1. *deafening round of applause, wolf whistles and appreciative letters to the editor, etc etc*

    I've only actually READ one of the ones you mentioned (I have another two on Mount TBR), but I heartily wish I HAD read The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was a teenager. It would have helped set my mind at ease and made me feel like I wasn't so alone feeling screwed up and like I was the only one in the world who seemed different.

    Depriving teenagers of amazing books achieves nothing. I sometimes wonder who these parents (and authorities) are and feel very thankful that mine weren't like that. I learned more about the world and my place in it from books like these, and about issues that other people were dealing with (making me more compassionate and understanding in turn). Stumbling across a bit of swearing or the odd sex scene hardly turned me into some sexually promiscuous harlot who swears like a sailor (okay, I can pull off that last part sometimes, but that came straight from the school corridors, not my reading list!). It just turned me into someone who loves books and understands life a little better by virtue of having experiencing OTHER lives through books.

    Short version: Hear hear, lass, hear hear! :)

  2. Banned Books Weeks always makes me proud of my little island. I'm sure a few random groups have had a go at banning things but our schools and libraries seem OK with kids exposing themselves to life. It's the ones who don't read books that seem to have the most colourful language anyway ;)

    1. Haha, I never thought about it like that, but yes they do! Probably because they have more time to slope around listening in to their parents'/older siblings' conversations, rather than burying themselves in a book and tuning it out. :P

  3. Awesome post - I love it!!! Sorry about my lateness on the link up today.... little internet difficulties I explain on the blog. Thanks for being a part of banned book week! Your post is right on the mark!

  4. You're probably preaching to the choir here, in the blogosphere, but perhaps someone not in the choir will read your great post and find a way to educate themselves.

    I read and reviewed The Perks of Being a Wallflower this first time. And I loved Handmaid's Tale.

  5. Fabulous post although I must admit to not knowing these books and only recently became aware of Margaret Atwood from getting an ARC of hers.


  6. i haven't read any of those but when i see which book are banned or challenged i'm sometimes really surprised and happy to live in a country where it's rare

    thank you for opening this to int too

  7. Trying to ban Persepolis is bonkers, so bravo to the kids for taking a stand! We seem to do pretty well down here in Australia re: being sensible about book choices, but every now and then you'll hear about a parent's group or a school trying to ban something for being "offensive". It seems to boil down to parents not understanding that reading something doesn't mean you'll try to emulate it, and even if the kids in the book are drug addicts or having sex at 13 or whatever, actual kids can learn something from the experience without *actually* experiencing it. Sigh.

  8. Loved reading this! I've just posted a bit of a rant on this subject and I can pretty much sum it up into 'I don't see the point'. Why bother banning books for things like racism, homosexuality, inappropriate language or moral corruption when it surrounds us anyway. You can ban books but it doesn't mean we won't face those things in everyday life. Reading can at least help us see it from an objective perspective and make our own judgements. Crazy people.

  9. This is a great post. You chose 4 fantastic books to highlight. It's just ridiculous and enraging that books are still banned in this day and age. Ignorance and fear are terrible things.

  10. Hi Bex, Many thanks for dropping by Pen and Paper, it was great to read your thoughts.

    Such an interesting post, I had no idea The Handmaiden's Tale had been banned but then on thinking about it it doesn't really surprise me.

    Anyway, nice to meet you, I've enjoyed my visit.