I had an interesting discussion the other day. Let me just start off by saying that I feel pretty strongly anti-censorship and would never advocate the banning of books. But I was speaking with a friend about the second Twilight installment and how uncomfortable it made me. At the beginning, Vampire Edward leaves Bella, after which she spends a year putting herself in all kinds of danger just to bring him back. She actually comes close to killing herself so he’ll come back to her. That is not OK with me. I said to my friend, “I’m afraid that teen girls will look at Bella as a role model and see this as an ideal relationship,” and it seemed to me that this was a story that could do real damage to readers.
The content that we deem dangerous varies: for some of us it’s sex or drugs or a certain 4-letter word, and sometimes it’s stories that just aren’t in line with our values, whether they be feminist, religious, political, etc. I think that ultimately the instinct to protect young readers is one we all share, and it is fundamentally a good instinct: it’s because we care.
And that’s why, for me, Banned Books Week is not just about celebrating our favorite banned books (although…The Giver! Harry Potter! every single Goosebumps book!) but the books that were banned that maybe we don’t love so much, those that we even find troubling. This is a week to remind ourselves once again that books are complex, and people are complex, and there’s no predicting all the magical ways that a book will change the person who picks it up.
I am grateful that Twilight has turned so many people into readers, and it deserves a place in every young adult collection. And I’m also grateful for all the books that have meant so much to me that other people saw fit to leave in libraries and bookstores when they personally didn’t agree with them or like them. Keeping some books accessible requires courage, and that’s the courage I celebrate this week. What books are you celebrating, even though they’re not your favorites?
And…TRIVIA! Can you guess which Lee & Low title has been challenged? First person to guess correctly in the comments below wins a copy.
Hint: It was published before 2000, and the topic falls under American History.