Friday, October 2, 2009

All we can do

I had a plan. In honor of the last day of Banned Books Week, I thought, "I will read my kids THE MOST challenged book of the year!" But it turns out the most challenged book of the year is And Tango Makes Three, which Tink reviewed here last year and which we read at least twice a month in my house.*

Instead, I decided to try something different. I tried to see it from the point of view of the parents challenging these books. I thought, "What if it were something that stood diametrically opposed to something I believe? What if there were a well-written, adorable picture book that, say, supported the idea that the Holocaust is a myth?" Would I want it gone from my kids' library? Or what if Tink's librarian started making YAs available to second graders to take out and Tink let slip one day that she was reading Forever at DEAR time?

But for every example I invented, there was the same answer: I would talk to Tink about it. The fact is: we can't control the world; all we can do is prepare our children for it. We can't control other people's opinions, no matter how crazy we think they are. All we can do is raise children strong enough and smart enough to think for themselves. And honestly, we can't really control who our children turn out to be. All we can do is show them that we are there to discuss the confusing parts and to answer questions and to calm their fears, and to promise them that we will love them, no matter what life choices they make.

And as writers, all we can do is keep writing books that show kids that no matter who they are or where they come from, somewhere someone understands.

Happy Banned Books week, everyone.

P.S. For a much better, deeper post on this, read this librarian's response to a parent's concerns (thanks cath c, for the link).

* really people? Really? The absolute scariest, most inappropriate for children thing in print out there right now is a true story about two male penguins who raise an adorable baby? For real? Because I have read some books with my kids this year that were so insipid that I could look into my kids' ears while they read and see their brains rotting noticeably.


Anna said...

I agree that Tango being the most challenged book of the year is kind of mind-boggling considering how seemingly harmless it is. But, going along with what you said about looking at it from another perspective, the fact that it IS so cute might be part of what terrifies people about it. They see it as having an agenda disguised beneath cute penguins.

I also tried to look at the issue of challenging books from the opposing perspective, but it was difficult because it's so opposite of the way I was raised and the things I believe in. Like you, my instinct is to talk to a child if I see him/her reading something that makes me concerned. That's why it's hard for me to understand why for some people this seems to be the last thing they do.

Jacqui said...

Anna, your point about the cute is a very good one, I think. Thanks.

Mary Witzl said...

Heheh -- your footnote made me laugh.

My daughter went to a school last year with kids who sent over-the-top inappropriate photographs of themselves over their cell phones. We're talking seriously over-the-top -- views of themselves only their doctors should see -- and I'm from California. Someone was caught selling heroin on campus; almost all of the girls were doing things I don't even like to write about; one of her classmates etched swastikas on his arm and claimed Hitler was his role model; his mission in life was to get all Jews out of Turkey. Our kid came home every day with some new story; we used it as a discussion point and had some marvelous talks with her. She's no longer at that school, but she learned a lot there. Two boy penguins raising a little penguin chick would have been a lovely distraction.

cath c said...

thanks for pointing the way to that letter. i confess i found it on neil gaiman's blog.

excellent point about taking the other pov. personally i think all parents who feel like banning books should read the letter. it would also help if they actually read some of the books they propose banning, like yours, which is so not a homosexual indoctrination. but even if it were, my kids would be reading it. after all, k has the league of fairy-godfathers.

love your point about talking with your kids about the sticky parts for them.

Jacqui said...

Mary, exactly. I'm so glad your daughter shared the stories with you so you could talk about them -- I hope Tink will do the same some day.

cath c, I love the "League of Fairy Godfathers." Is that already a book too? It should be.

cath c said...

if it were a book, it would definitely be on the banned hit list. lol! they were real people, about 4-5 gay men close friends at the time of k's birth. but thanks for the idea...

Diane T said...

Amen, Jacqui. What I love about that librarian's response is that the mother challenging the book had read it to her daughter and it didn't suddenly change her daughter's mind about what the family believed. So you talk about it with your kids, and whaddyaknow? Parents still have influence!

Although my first reaction when I hear about any kind of book banning is you can take my book when you pry it from my cold dead fingers ... if you can.