I find hype sort of embarassing, and certainly irritating. For that reason, I was pretty sure I’d avoid reading the Harry Potter
books, back when they first came out and everyone was talking about them. Then I heard that parents and religious groups in my college town were up in arms over the Harry Potter books, trying to have them removed from the libraries, oh won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children! People were even, I heard, buying copies of the book to burn.
“Irate parent groups? Book burnings? Okay, now I have to read it!” I said, and made for the book store post-haste to see what was upsetting the religious right this time. I wasn’t even sure if Harry Potter was the author, or the title, or what, because I hadn’t actually read the news articles–I was hearing it all word of mouth, I’m pretty sure, although my memories of that time are foggy now. Of course once I got to the bookstore it wasn’t hard to find what I was looking for–hello, hulking displays with lots of red! I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
and started reading.
And couldn’t stop.
I bought book one in the series (which had just come out in paperback), brought it home, and devoured it. It was over too soon, so I told my partner-at-the-time about it, and started reading it aloud to her before bed. Of course I got tired after a few chapters and needed to go to sleep–she stayed up half the night to finish it. And so an addiction was born.
The Harry Potter series is still some of my favorite reading; the hubster and I read all seven books to my stepdaughter (A.K.A. the Drama Princess), and I’ve read the entire series . . . well, let’s just say, more than once.
But the point of this entry isn’t just to sing the praises of Rowling’s work, although I like to do that. The point is, I probably wouldn’t have read the books to begin with if it hadn’t been for all the book banning nonsense.
It seems to me like sometimes censorship attempts have the opposite effect of what they were intended to have. Whenever I hear someone wants a book banned (or a movie, or anything else), I’m immediately curious about why, and suddenly find myself filled with a burning desire to taste the forbidden fruit. And you’d THINK that people would realize this, especially considering that the majority of banning attempts are made by parents–who of all people should know that the moment you tell a kid they can’t have something, that something becomes the thing they want most in all the world.
That’s not to say that I would read something only
because it was banned or challenged. If I’m not interested, I’m not interested, no matter how much the moms in the midewest are upset about it. I’m just saying that if I’m undecided about a book, a ban (successful or attempted) is going to pique my curiosity enough to make me want to read it. And if I like the book enough to buy it, I get a sort of obnoxious delight in giving money to an author who has been up in front of the firing squad, so to speak.
While the Harry Potter series is, at this point, my favorite choice in controversial reading, there are plenty of other delicious books that have been challenged or banned. You can find all sorts of lists
–by year, by decade, by author, and more–at the ALA site. And while you’re at it, check out the Banned Book Weeks
Banned Books Week begins on September 26 this year, and your library might be hosting some events. If you have the time and you’re a fan of the right to read and have access to books, you might consider finding a way to help out or spread the word.
And my question is, what’s YOUR favorite banned or challenged book?