Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week!

So Tahereh and The Rejectionist are hosting an epic bonanza of banned book reviews today, in which everyone talks about their favorite banned book.

And I'm going to pull the oh-my-God-obvious card. Right about now. Ready? Okay.

Harry Potter.

Now, while I love the Harry Potter series, it is not my favorite series of books in the world. I get easily irritated with the last few books in the series. They're not the greatest works of literature ever written.

But the thing I love most about Harry Potter is that it has done something that no other book I know of has done - it has connected us on a global level. Talk to just about anyone around the world and you will be able to formulate some kind of conversation about Harry Potter. Maybe they grew up reading Harry Potter. Maybe, like me, Harry Potter taught them to love reading. Maybe their kids read Harry Potter. Maybe they don't have kids but they still read it anyway. Maybe they're ten years old and are just getting into the series for the first time. Maybe they've only seen the movies.

And because we are all so connected because of these books, we can really carry out their message - that it's worth fighting for the good in this world. The fact that something like the Harry Potter Alliance exists and helps real people in real ways, like sending FIVE planes of supplies to Haiti, makes me so, so happy. It's amazing that a book can connect so many people around the world and motivate them to do so many good things. (Although really, what better than a book to do all that?)

Why in God's name would anyone want to try banning that?

Oh yeah. Right.

I'm not even going to bother getting into the fact that the magic in Harry Potter is obviously not real and we are not stupid enough to believe it is. I just have one question for the book banners of the world:

Who died and made you king of the universe?

Seriously, I understand that you're trying to protect morality here. Great. Fine. Good. But it is not your job to tell other people what they can and cannot read. I personally lived a very sheltered childhood, and because of that I'm very sensitive to people reading or watching "inappropriate" things at a young age. I am really disturbed by all the ten-year-olds in the world reading Twilight, 'cause, come on, that's just wrong.

But it is NOT MY JOB to tell them not to read it.

I mean, yeah, if a friend asked me about it, I would say READ HARRY POTTER AND DON'T READ TWILIGHT. EVER. But what you would say to a friend and banning a book from a school library are completely different. My friend could choose to ignore me, but completely removing the opportunity for a child to read a book is just plain wrong.

Many of the books on the ALA list could really help someone who is going through a tough time. Many of them are the classics that we all read in English class. And many of them you look at and just say "huh???"

Maybe Harry Potter isn't the most "important" book in the world. But even though the magic in it is not real, the spirit of it is clearly very, very real indeed. We don't need magic spells to do what Harry did - make friends, believe in himself, stand up for what's right. But we do need books that might show us how to do that.

I wasn't an avid reader as a little kid, but all that changed when my mom got me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. How could something that has instilled a lifelong love of reading be bad? Why would you ever want to stop a child from learning to love to read?

Banning books is not okay, and it should never be allowed to be okay. Reading is far too important a thing to try and stifle.


  1. GREAT POST. So true about how HP has connected us globally -- I feel like it truly is magic in that way.

    And of course I agree about the fact that reading should never be stifled <3

  2. The global connection is especially cool. What I liked about the effect of the series, which you touch on, is that so many people discovered (or rediscovered) a love of reading. Peer pressure, in essence, got many to read. Then, once they started, they didn't stop. It also revolutionized the publishing world. Publishers realized that kids COULD read a book with more depth (and number of pages), complexity than a Babysitter's Club novel and fall in love with it.
    *this is in no way meant to disparrage Babysitters' Club books--I did, and still do, love them!

  3. Awesome post. I read that ALA list and I was really surprised by what was on there - I hope they realise the irony in banning Fahrenheit 451 ^_^

    I was also surprised by how many of those we had to read for school. I hated the Chocolate War when I had to write an essay on it in Year 10, but I wouldn't want to see it banned. Looking up a list of books banned in Australia, you come up with a very short list. We once banned Lady Chaterley's Lover, and even now you have to sell American Psycho in plain packaging with an R rating on the front, but in reality the fiction list is incredibly short.

    Good on you all for sticking up for books shoved under the counter as 'too controversial'!

  4. Here, here. *claps enthusiastically* I'd take it a step further. I might not like a book on my child's reading list. I might ask the teacher that they be allowed to read something else because I don't think it's appropriate for MY CHILD, but that doesn't mean that I have any right to tell other parents that their kids shouldn't read it. And I especially don't have the right to demand that the book be taken off the list. No one has the right to tell others what they or their children should be reading!! Great post!

  5. 'Ear 'ear! :D I completely agree!

  6. Yay, Caitlin! This is a win!!

  7. "I mean, yeah, if a friend asked me about it, I would say READ HARRY POTTER AND DON'T READ TWILIGHT. EVER."

    I would say the same thing. I've never read a book that I thought needed to be banned. The problem is the banners probably don't read the books they ban.

    If you'd like, check out my review on my blog today.

  8. Cait! Librarians thank you for your cohesive thoughts on the most odious form of censorship---the banning of books! Most of the books on the ALA list have only been challenged, not banned, so THAT is a good thing, and you are correct in assuming that many of the would-be banners have not read the books! We often are told that, once they actually READ the book that they objected to, they see the benefit of the entire book. Sigh! Life can be frustrating in these knee-jerk reaction, Fox News times. The irony of the ALA list is that it gets more people to read what they assume will be a juicy book! Happy Reading to you!!

  9. Great post!

    I was astonished when a few people in my area started in on the "Harry Potter is about satanism" stuff.

    Yes, because satanism is clearly about self-sacrifice and teamwork and the power of love and redemption and confession and forgiveness. Sheesh.