Banned Books Week 2018 is September 23 through 29, 2018.
Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2017, I read from I Am Jazz (here’s the recording). In 2016, I read from Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (here’s the recording). In 2015, I read from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (here’s the recording). In 2014, I read from Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (here’s the recording).
Of the top ten, this book was number nine. The ALA says, “Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.”
Here’s my readout:
How I Chose This Year’s Book
This year’s process wasn’t especially formal. I ruled out books I had read before, and solicited opinions on Facebook (scientific, right?). I ended up choosing “And Tango Makes Three” because my friend Rebecca said her little boy likes it. The end.
After reading it, I can say I like it too. It’s about New York City, first of all, and evokes my memories of going to the Toy Boat Pond with Tenley years ago (I’ve never been to the Central Park Zoo, oddly enough!).
I like how Roy and Silo (Tango’s Parents) were much like me as a parent-to-be and then a parent. They hoped fervently to have a child of their own to raise and prepared as well as they could. When she finally arrived, she hung the moon in their eyes. Universal parenting aspirations.
About To Kill a Mockingbird
Most people in my informal poll wanted me to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I have read it before, but it has been so long. I’m not sure why it intrigued so many people in the discussion, but for the record, here is why it was challenged, according to the ALA:
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
I need to revisit TKaM anyway. It’s on my list.
Why Book Challenges and Bans Matter
This year’s Banned Books Week theme is “banning books silences stories.” I believe wholeheartedly in the power of stories (even (especially?) stories that make us uncomfortable, introduce an idea or concept that is new to us or in some other way expand our worlds.
In Why do we ban books, anyway? Chelsea Condren writes, “The power and danger in book banning lies in someone’s ability to think their opinion is the only one that matters, and, thereby, the only one that is allowed. I think a lot of us want what’s best for children. But being able to decide for oneself the quality of someone else’s thoughts, and being able to use those skills to form your own opinions, is a skill best learned by reading. The ability to think critically is important, and books are the tools with which we whittle that ability.” I agree.
I also am reminded, by an author who has had his share of challenges (Mark Haddon), that it’s short-sighted to be even a hair smug or self-righteous about being an advocate against challenges/bans, because “…both sides, paradoxically, are to be thanked for getting more people reading and talking about books.”