Let’s Talk Bookish: Banning Books

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme that was originally created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books starting in August 2019, and was then cohosted with Dani @ Literary Lion from May 2020 to March 2022. Book Nook Bits has hosted since April 2022.

December 16: Banning Books 
(Jillian @ Jillian the Bookish Butterfly)

Prompts: Do you think banning books is fair? Should students be allowed to read what they want and be able to get it from their school library? In a more broad sense, how do you feel about books that have been “banned?” Do you think that it’s a crime to ban a book, no matter what it contains, or are there cases where it’s alright? 

I think consumers should be free to choose what to consume, but I also think libraries, bookshops, etc should be free to choose what to stock – they can’t possibly host every single book ever, after all. But I think it’s wrong to outright ban a book, and it’s wrong for people outside those spaces to make decisions on what can be in a school or public library, or in a local bookshop, or what national chains carry. The people who make these decisions do it on a number of factors, and because they know their local audience. Having, say, a body of outside people deciding “no we don’t personally like this book” is an extremely bad idea. Allowing the decisions to be influenced by people who are going off personal believes and judgements is a bad idea.

I think students should be free to choose books with guidance. I think they should be able to ask questions about what they’re reading, challenge it where appropriate, embrace the idea of reading being a journey. School libraries should have age appropriate books, but there are always going to be kids who read above their current level. I don’t know many people my age who didn’t read completely inappropriate books when they were younger – from Flowers in the Attic to IT, and Stardust – a fantastic book – starts with a swear word on the first page and immediately has a sex scene, yet after the film – which I also love – came out, the book was marketed at children.

I think kids and teens are much smarter than we give them credit for, and when they’re surrounded by adults they can trust, they’ll ask questions about things they don’t necessarily understand. Regarding “banned” books, I think we need to be very careful when books are banned. We might celebrate some, but others – especially by marginalized authors – risk being removed totally out of the hands of kids who need them the most. It also has a huge impact on those authors, as it impacts their sales and can prevent school visits. In an ideal world, every kid would be able to be open about what they’re reading to their parent, but that is not always the case. It might be that a teen prefers reading graphic novels and their parents disapprove of them, or it might be someone is questioning their sexuality and looking for connections in the forms of book characters, but don’t yet feel comfortable talking to their parents.

There are already measures in place that, in theory, should prevent genuinely harmful books from making it to shelves, but even then books do get through, and self-publishing is now so big it would be impossible to monitor every single book being put out there. I think it needs to be left up to the people who a) know what they’re doing and b) have actually read the book. Far too often, books are banned because all the person requesting the ban knows is a paragraph, taken out of context, or they claim the book promotes x when actually it really doesn’t. Book bans are dangerous, and show a complete lack of faith in booksellers, librarians, and readers. Instead we should focus on ensuring kids and teens get as wide an experience as possible, at a level they’re comfortable at, without an external body limiting perfectly good books that just so happen to highlight what makes them uncomfortable.

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