Imagine you’re an author, in the middle of writing an international bestselling YA book series about vampires, when you find out that that same book series has been banned from one school district. Banned in its entirety. But wait. You’re not finished with the series yet. Is this school district really banning books…before they are even published?
Despite the frustrations from that book challenge, Wittlinger hasn’t shied away from writing about these tough, but important, topics that relate to teenagers. Her novels written since Sandpiper was challenged tackle everything from LGBTQIA issues, suicide, religion and spirituality, and the universal search for love and belonging.
However, from a librarian’s perspective, this decision seriously infringes on our intellectual freedom, especially the freedoms of those who rely upon the library for their access to information.
Why is this case still worth our attention? It’s been 50 years. Private freedoms are viewed as a necessary pillar of our society. As Americans, we have the right to privately read and view whatever information or material we wish. It is unconstitutional for the government to come in and try to police the content of the media we’re consuming. Right?
George was an adventurer. Born into a family of naturalists, she spent much of her time camping near the Potomac River, observing the local flora and fauna, and learning valuable wilderness skills. Her love of nature and the hours spent exploring the outdoors eventually inspired over 100 books, including 1960 Newberry Honor, My Side of the Mountain, and 1973 Newberry winner Julie of the Wolves.
Each time I read one, I asked myself, “What makes her books so compelling?” It could be her writing, with its fast-paced plot lines peppered with thoroughly researched details. It could be the twist endings, which keep me on edge as I read up until the very last page. But mostly, I think it’s the way she fearlessly tackles difficult, hard-to-grasp topics: abortion, teen suicide, faith, rape, euthanasia, racism, school shootings, LGBTQ+ rights.
Banned books are an important and radical way to continue that growth and development. When a book is banned or challenged, it shines a light on issues that our society would rather be kept in the dark.
Dr. Angelou’s words urge us all to push past our fears, our anger, our hate. To find freedom in the good, the kind, the welcoming. To embrace our neighbor, both human and the world. To rise and feel the pulse of a new day.
Whether or not it contained the criminalization aspect, this bill, had it been voted into law, would essentially be red flagging books that contained potentially obscene content. Who would be responsible for policing which books are considered obscene? The decisions would be purely subjective, based on the opinions of parents and community members. And how obscene would it need to be to require consent/legal action?
Each article in the Library Bill of Rights is important, but I’m always drawn to this particular article for that phrase. “To provide information and enlightenment”. It is essential that parents and educators understand that to be fully informed, enlightened citizens in our society, our children must be exposed to a diverse array of viewpoints and ideas, not just those that fit within a certain ideology.