Friday, April 23, 2010

No, Atlantic, we don’t

Why We Want Parents To Try To Ban Books

It’s short. Go read it.

The one major flaw in logic I see in the piece is that they seem to be assuming that the people who are challenging these books are actually, you know, reading them, and not basing their evaluation of the book's value (or lack thereof) on a few sentences taken out of context. This is not about a celebration of critical discourse amongst the population at large; this is a celebration of a lack of reading or critical thinking ability. Which is something you should be against, Atlantic.

Also, the people challenging these books are not making choices for their children; they're trying to make choices for ALL children. I’m not much for “slippery slope” arguments, so I won’t make one, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that people feeling like they have the right to make such highly individual choices for other people is bad.

This argument also fails on the “people who live in the real world” front. I’ve never had a book in my library challenged, but I have had books brought to my “attention”, and have hesitated recommending or featuring some books, or putting them on the summer reading list, despite their many merits. This despite being told, when I asked my dean about putting a book with a mildly controversial (and, I might add, hilarious) blow job scene on the summer reading list, that it was no problem and she’d gladly field complaints. I have no real fear of significant repercussions based on any book I’ve bought or recommended—but I still pause and ask myself if I’m asking for trouble. Asking librarians to regularly—nay, frequently, as they’re encouraging here—confront such challenges to their judgment is just plain wrong. Yes, we all need to have the courage of our convictions, but facing such challenges can be exhausting, especially given that the people bringing them are not always interested in a polite exchange of differing ideals.

Encouraging book challenges is not encouraging healthy discourse. It’s encouraging people to question and judge the professional abilities of librarians and teachers. And we get quite enough of that already, thank you.

Also, that “or even ttyl and the Twilight series line is just plain obnoxious. How gracious of you, to deign to acknowledge that YA lit may have a legitimate place on the shelves next to “real” books. A quick search of The Atlantic's archive turns up 463 articles mentioning Dan Brown. Just sayin’.

On a tangentially related note, I find hilarious is that Twilight is challenged for being "sexually explicit.” Seriously? [Obligatory SPOILER ALERT, even though if you haven't read the books by now, chances are you're not going to] When the only actual sex in the entire series takes place the main character is UNCONSCIOUS. Would they prefer she develop amnesia? Is that un-explicit enough? I can think of so many better reasons to challenge Twilight. For example, vampires don’t sparkle; the book gives poor, impressionable children misguided ideas about both vampires and sparkly things.


  1. Love this post! But how do you know that vampires don't sparkle?

  2. Well, none of the vampires *I've* ever met have sparkled. Though that might not be a statistically significant sample.

  3. Yeah, everyone who knows anything about vampires knows that they sparkle for a few seconds before violently bursting into flames when they come in contact with sunlight.

  4. On behalf of everything sparkly, I commend you on your piece. ttyl.