Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hey Gang, Let's Ban Us Some Books!

With the recent kerfuffle about how "dark" teen books are somehow bad for teenagers and should give reasonable parents pause, I thought this would be the perfect time for me to get some writing banned.

Why do you want to ban this writing, you might well ask.

Let’s see. How about, because I don’t approve of it?

That seems to be good enough for the Wall Street Journal, which recently published quite the long article by a woman who -- apparently lacking access to a chain bookstore or child psychiatrist -- opened with the contention that a perfectly reasonable mom of her acquaintance was unable to find a single young adult book that wouldn’t be psychologically damaging to her tender young daughter at her local mega-bookstore, which had unfortunately made the suicidal decision not to stock any less-than-dark books by the wonderful Joan Bauer or Meg Cabot or Rachel Vail (to list a very few), unlike all other chain bookstores in the continental USA.

(Yes, I know I'm exaggerating, but if the Wall Street Journal doesn't have to check facts, why should I?)

She then suggested that all those dark, disturbing books might lead teens to engage in dark, disturbing activities. As in, Hey gang, I just read a book with a narrator who cuts! What say we all smoke some dark, disturbing substances and cut right after cheer practice?

Which seems to me about as likely as a reader finishing Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and going, Hey Gang, let’s go get raped by a sociopathic athlete at an otherwise fun party.

In sharp contrast to the charming, not-dark books of yore, such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. (Which I love as much as the next guy, but I always thought that not having enough food to eat and the other vicissitudes of Francie’s life, which I seem to recall included evading a child rapist with the assistance of a well-placed bullet, were sort of on the dark side. But that’s just me.)

Leading me to what I want to ban: Duh. The Wall Street Journal.

Why not? They printed an article I really didn’t like. It upset me. Not only that, it lead me to write a pro-banning article that will no doubt upset others, such as open-minded people who think that teen and adult readers are capable of independent thought, of actually thinking things over, and of making intelligent decisions.

But what if all those upset, anti-banning types are wrong about provocative writing leading to intelligent thought? Exactly! That's why we have to ban The Wall Street Journal!

Because what if parents and educators read the scary, dark article and simply salute, jumping to the wrong-headed conclusion that the children in their charge shouldn’t be reading The Hunger Games, or Speak, or Scars, or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian?

What if kids who have gone through dark, disturbing experiences, kids who have to take heroic action to survive their families and neighborhoods and schools, kids who are shunned and hurt and bullied, can’t find a single piece of reading material that lets them know that they are not alone?

What if delicate flowers whose mothers frequent badly stocked chain bookstores never get to read about characters whose lives are perhaps more challenging than anything they’ve ever imagined, never get to empathize and understand those characters, and go forth into the world na├»ve and intolerant?

Now that’s dark and disturbing.

Which is why, given my excellent reasons for disapproving of the contents of the Wall Street Journal, we must ban it at once.


  1. Ann, I love your post! I love your irreverent sense of humor merging with real, serious thought. Beautifully done! And thank you so much for including Scars! (smiling at you)

  2. Yes! Great post....and ya know on WSJ, talk about joining the ban wagon, ay? Thanks for sharing your thoughts--and some crazy good books.

  3. Thanks, Cheryl and Deb! And they are crazy good books, aren't they?

  4. Very nicely reasoned, Ann. I personally would love to ban the Wall Street Journal, which I'm convinced does more harm than all YA novels put together.

  5. For some odd reason, as the Wall Street Journal prints more extreme opinion pieces on cultural matters, no one much mentions that Fox News and the Journal are owned by the same people. There's still this, "Well the Wall Street Journal" said that thing that it still evokes.

    Somehow the folk who want to ban books never quite come up with "light" books that anyone should read instead unless you count making kids read Where the Red Fern Grows hundreds of times. Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird venture into some pretty dark territory. Even a Little Princess is actually about child abuse, if you think about it and I'm not sure what we're supposed to make of Oliver Twist (child abuse, children being trained to be criminals, strange weird man named Fagin, the Jewish criminal with the girlfriend who does what? As you point out, does anyone actually read the stuff that used to be "cheerier"?