There is absolutely no denying that the political climates of Connecticut and Arizona are about as opposite as Mitt and Obama in nearly every aspect of what could be construed as politics. I have my political opinions and while I sit firmly on my fence of independence I can’t help but laugh at some of the immense crazy coming out of my new home state. There was a lot of crazy in my old home state but the Brewertopia I’m living in now is a whole different level of crazy.
See, Arizona has a hyperactive legislature and while that can pump out some shit that does make sense, like the Stupid Motorist Law, that a place like Connecticut is too much of a goddamn hippie to hold people responsible for their own idiocy to enact, we also get mind-numbing laws that make women perpetually pregnant and white-washes school curriculums.
Arizona is a border state. There is nothing short of a cataclysmic tectonic event that’ll change that. That means there is a lot of ethnic diversity in this state, much to the chagrin of many people, especially the people in power. Wherever you stand on the immigrant debate, this is a nation built by a melting pot of nationalities and while there is an illegal immigrant issue, especially here, that doesn’t mean that ALL minorities are illegal and it doesn’t mean that we should put the kibosh on ethnic diversity. If you take a look at this list you’ll be able to pick up a theme rather quickly.
Why? Why is the state of Arizona going so far as to completely snuff out ethnic reading? Arizona is squatting on a rather large plot of Indian and Mexican land. I could get into how they were here first and the American settlers pushed them out and whatnot but that’s not the argument (because, let’s face it, imposing empires don’t have a history of asking for things nicely). White people are not native out here regardless of who took what from whom. While I don’t agree with encouraging illegal immigration I don’t believe in discouraging ethnic education.
Arizona has this odd fear of a minority uprising and a usurpation of power found, obviously, in them reading books with words about non-whites in them. HB 2281 expressly forbids “courses or classes that . . . are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.” THIS IS FOR REAL. Read the bill and marvel at how far your eyes will cross. The way this bill is being enforced is shutting down culturally diverse programs in schools and removing ethnic reading material from school classrooms and libraries for the sake of . . . what? To promote equality in our schools? By removing all culturally diverse texts from the rooms? We learn about pilgrims in history until our damn eyes bleed. As someone coming from New England that’s a pretty poignant part of my area history (and of course the country’s). The settling of the American southwest would be a bit different. Imagine living in New York City and not reading about the Harlem Renaissance because it was too far leaning towards one ethnicity. No Langston Hughes for you.
No, I don’t believe the overthrow of the US government should be taught in classrooms. That’s only slightly treasonous. If this is to be believed that was one of the catalysts to the bill itself, the WAY some of these books were being taught. Okay, so REFORM THE TEACHING. Don’t crush the entire program and remove the books because the teachers are supposedly sending bad messages. And guys, if a book is removed from a classroom and thus removing students’ access to it, it’s banned. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s probably not a hippopotamus.
Sherman Alexie is no stranger to being banned in the fine state of Arizona and a channel has popped up on YouTube reading out books on Arizona’s banned list. No, I don’t believe tax payer money should go to fund the upbringing of a generation of anarchists but at the same time if people are driving like shitbags you’re not about to ban cars, are you? No. Have people learned nothing from banning books? Have they not learned that banning them will only make them more desirable? By removing them from schools those with enough want will just seek them out on their own? History should not be removed from the classrooms and alternate views of history should be taught to get a more well-rounded view of the event in question.
This is rightly the second wave of the Civil Rights Movement (that Hannity article made that abundantly clear to me). Voices are trying to be silenced. Why? How will that benefit anyone? They’ll find a way to speak one way or another. Let history be taught. Allow students access to all types of books suitable to their ages. If the way these books are being taught is such a problem, how about keeping a closer eye on the teachers themselves instead of punishing the students? All this looks like now is a sanitizing of the history of Arizona and of cultural diversity in general. You’re not oppressed or at a disadvantage. Who’s teaching you these things? Seriously . . . We’re not all white WASPs bred from Europe. To try and crush anything else is a bit of a disservice to, you know, a good chunk of the population.
Holy crap. Year four of Ban This! (2009, 2010, 2011) Out of the four years I’ve done this I’ve been able to actively participate in my own event twice. In 2010 I was away on vacation for half the month and this year I’m making a meager 2,500 mile move across the country so needless to say I will be a bit pre-occupied. Just not pre-occupied enough to forget Ban This! No way.
Ban This! is me taking it upon myself to extend ALA’s Banned Books Week for the entire month of September to bring awareness to all that is ridiculous about banning books. That’s not to say it can’t be done throughout the year because banners never sleep but September seems like a good month to use as a focus what with the event at the end of the month and schools just starting up and all. To me it just wouldn’t feel like September without some mention of book bannings and challenges.
Nothing extensive is required of anyone that wants to participate in Ban This! By attaching the badge to your site you’re promising to promote banned and challenged books in some fashion throughout the month of September however you see fit. In the past I’ve reviewed banned and challenged books, had authors guest post about banned books in general and, in some cases, their own banned books, waxed poetic about the wankery of book banning, among other things. The point is to not be silenced, to not let the cranky, petulant few that insist on parenting EVERYONE rip books out of the hands of children (and adults!) for their own selfish reasons.
I’m a little upset that I need to step back from my own event this year but I know, as book bloggers, this is something we won’t stay silent about, whether it’s as part of Ban This! or just Banned Books Weeks in general. Make posts, chat it up for #banthis, submit a read-out video, whatever. Just be sure to be vocal. Grab the button on the right and tell everyone to Ban This! And leave me a note below just letting me know you’re going to rock out with your banned books out in September. (What’d you think I was going to say? Perve.)
This wraps it up for this year’s Ban This!, along with Banned Books Week. Thank you to everyone who participated by posting about something banned and book-related this month and to all of the authors that stopped by and said a few words. The purpose of Ban This! is to just stick it to those that feel the need to parent the world and keep literature away from young, impressionable eyes. People need to be reminded that we’re all different, we all function at different levels and we can all handle different things differently. Blanket statements are killer and I certainly don’t want myself or my supposed future loinfruit wrapped up in them. Let me handle me and mine. You stick to yours. Thank you all for helping me prove that point.
Janet talks about the craziness of books (just not in the way you might think) below and has offered up a signed copy of her own crazy book, THE BABYSITTER MURDERS, to give away as part of her Ban This! post! Just fill out the form at the end of her talk for your chance to win! Thanks so much, Janet, for the giveaway and for your awesome post!
When a Book Drives You Crazy
Sometimes it’s all about the need for a book. Below, Josie waxes on that need. Thanks for contributing, Josie!
I have to be honest – I don’t have many coherent thoughts about book banning beyond “It’s so clearly stupid” and “OMG, I hope that one of my books get banned someday!”
Why would I want a clearly stupid thing to happen to one of my books? The truth is, I believe when a book gets banned it’s proof that it did something right. That book reflected us back upon ourselves so precisely or poignantly or offensively that it caused some close-minded person somewhere to be so completely overwhelmed and afraid of the reality of human experience that they tried to keep it away from everyone else. For the common good, of course. I believe being banned means a writer did something spectacular.
And I can, at least, speak to my own experience. My parents wouldn’t have been able to keep me away from any book even if they tried (which they didn’t). As a result, my reading habits were basically feral. And yes, this meant I read The Prince of Tides when I was 12 and certainly too young to process such a mature story (though it became and remains one of my favorite books). It also meant I spent a whole summer devouring the entire V.C. Andrews oeuvre, and another summer swapping romance novels with my stepsister, and another summer hiding under the covers with some very dark horror stories that still creep me out to this day.
So that’s why I react so badly when people try to tell teenagers, on the cusp of adulthood, what they can and can’t read. Again, I suppose I can understand individual parents making entertainment decisions for their own children based on their family culture (though if those parents think they can protect their kids from every scary thing in the world, they’re sadly mistaken), but I will never understand trying to take a book away from every teenager. I can’t fathom the hubris of setting yourself up as a judge and jury for what is appropriate for everyone at any age.
Personally, I doubt anyone was made into a well-rounded and empathetic adult while covered in bubble-wrap and rainbows. I believe that being an adult, being a human, means recognizing the world is often a horribly dark and unfair place, filled with lots of people who think and do things differently than you. Trying to keep those facts out of the hands of teenagers, who need the truth in order to grow up, is one of the most counter-productive things I can imagine a society doing to its young people.
My next book, Faking Faith, is about a girl who becomes fascinated with a fundamentalist culture that has eliminated virtually all choices. After screwing up and going through some terrible experiences, Dylan wonders if this sheltered world where everyone follows a defined, protected and rigid path might have the answers. However, nothing is as it seems and Dylan is forced to confront some hard truths about life, and to grow up a lot as a result. If Faking Faith helps one reader feel less alone in the world, then I’ve done my job as a writer.