CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM TO READ
September 27th - October 3rd
It's BANNED BOOKS WEEK and we're recognizing this important week with BANNED BOOK features from our authors.
Please welcome Christine Potter, author of TIME RUNS AWAY WITH HER, releasing tomorrow!
I was a young adult in the 1960’s and early 70’s. I didn’t trust adults writing down to me. So I read Salinger and sneered. There was one other author I really trusted: Madeleine L’Engle. Little did I know then that even my beloved A Wrinkle In Time was banned in some places by groups who found L’Engle’s brand of lefty Christianity either not Biblical enough—or “too religious.” She was even accused of Communism. The book is still controversial.
I didn’t discover Anne of Green Gables until I was an adult visiting Prince Edward Island. I read it in my 50’s, and loved it as much as Mark Twain did. In fact, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne series is what got me started writing my own first YA novel, Time Runs Away With Her. But even red braids and hard-working Canadian farmers don’t escape those who want to bubble-wrap our kids. A play adaptation of the classic book performed in an American public high school recently came under heavy criticism for being too hard on adoptees! Cue the angry parents in the superintendent’s office. Ban Anne!
I’ve been in recovery from teaching high school English for a number of years now, but somehow I got away with doing a full-metal whole-language take on The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn in my classroom back when I was still in the trenches. And I do mean whole-language, complete with the N-word and every sharply-observed bit of racism Twain tells the blessed truth about in that dark, deeply funny, heartbreaking book.
I taught for a lot of years. Never once did I have a student tell me that she wished I had censored the required reading. But let’s face it: the best way to get someone NOT to read a book is to assign it in school.
When I was in high school myself, there was the mostly-classical music that got taught in school and the music kids actually listened to: rock and roll. Music teachers sneered at The Beatles and The Stones. Meanwhile, high school bands died for lack of interest, but everyone played guitar and listened passionately to the music that was effectively banned in their schools.
Today’s best YA fiction is the rock and roll of its time. It needs to push the boundaries, or it’ll be about as relevant as the sappy odes to springtime my seventh grade chorus performed in 1964.
Kids have to be able to choose what they read. And we need to get off our literary high horses about it when they choose “genre” fiction. My favorite news image of this past week was Stephen King receiving The National Medal For the Arts from President Obama. Anyone who has taught high school English will tell you that the kids who hated to read ALWAYS made a big exception for anything by King—who, by the way, is a just plain excellent writer.
I think adults envy kids. They remember how happy they used to get, and how intense and wonderful the world was, even when it wasn’t so wonderful. That’s the fun of reading and writing YA as an adult. But some of us express our envy by trying to control the wrong things. The truth is that we can’t change who kids are by either banning books or assigning them. Choice is everything. Kids will surely read the banned books. And they’ll ignore the assigned books—unless we let them choose the ones that tell the truth.
About the author:
About the author: