Musings: Don’t tell me what I can/can’t read

If there’s anything that infuriates me, it’s someone saying “you shouldn’t/can’t/won’t read this.” In honor of Banned Books Week, let me recount the reasons why it fills me with such rage.

The source of my teacher's ire
The source of my teacher’s ire

In 6th grade, I was reading a YA sci-fi series about a girl who discovers she’s a clone. I made the mistake of bringing it to school to read during recess because my teacher found it and scolded me in front of the entire class for reading it. I attended a private Christian school, and unfortunately teachers often crossed boundaries of trying to parent rather than teach. On top of that. middle schoolers are jerks, and my 6th grade class was no exception: I was ridiculed and gossiped about for reading a “bad book.”

Humiliated and ashamed, you would’ve thought I had learned my lesson. Well, things are supposed to be better-ish in high school, right?

Nah.

A few years later, I was super into Harry Potter and eager to add the books to my burgeoning book collection. I was still at the same school where a few times a year, we received the Scholastic Book Catalog. One fine spring, I rifled through and to my delight, saw that hardbacks of the first 4 Harry Potter books were being sold at a great, discounted price. My mother, being a reasonable person and still one of the most reasonable people I know, agreed to buy them for me (in return for babysitting, I’m sure). I was excited and didn’t think anything of it until the day they arrived.

HarryPotterandSatan
Harry and Satan 4ever? Oh please.

When the books came, they didn’t go to my homeroom teacher, another reasonable person who wouldn’t have batted an eye, but to the teacher whose class I had after lunch. I arrived to class only to receive a screaming, angry lecture how Harry Potter was Satan’s Book and how dare I bring witchcraft books to school blah blah blah. All in front of my classmates, mind you. My teacher gave me the books, but not without commenting that she shouldn’t, and told me to go put them in my locker and away from poisoning her classroom any longer. Once again embarrassed and humiliated by a teacher, a teacher, I ended up covering the books with my jacket to my locker and to Mom’s car, so as to avoid any further comments about my reading selection.

What book you read is your choice. I don’t care if it’s a beach read, Infinite Jest, a comic book, the Bible, the Necronomicon, a cookbook, Harry Potter, L. Ron Hubbard’s books, or whatever else you come up with. When books are banned, people do not have that choice to make. It’s been ripped away from them by people acting out of fear or ignorance.  When people are shamed for their reading choices, you’re pushing them away from books they might love, learn from, or want to share with others.

Quit it.

For more info on Banned Books Week

American Library Association’s page on Banned Books

2014 Photo Competition held by Oklahoma Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee

Top 10 Books Challenged in the US

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