Thursday, April 25, 2013

Banned Books: Controversial subject matter is an opportunity to openly discuss issues

By Rachel Diebel, A&E Writer

Part of being a parent, apart from the soccer practices and doctor’s appointments, is deciding what you want your child to be exposed to as far as books, movies and TV are concerned.
This is part of the reason why, every year, hundreds of challenges are lodged with the American Library Association (ALA) from libraries or schools who have had anxious citizens, mostly parents, express concern about certain books being available.

The ALA’s website describes a challenge as "a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness."
According to an press release last Friday, 2012 saw a rise in the number of challenges to 464, up from 326 in 2011. The list of the most challenged books of 2012 includes everything from the predictable, such as E.L. James’ "Fifty Shades of Grey" to the inexplicable, such as Dav Pilkey’s popular series "Captain Underpants."
Several young adult books also made the list this year. John Green, author of "The Fault in Our Stars," which has been blowing up the New York Times bestseller list for the past year, has a novel on the list called "Looking for Alaska." "Thirteen Reasons Why," by Jay Asher and "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, both wildly popular YA lit, also made this year’s list.
These books received challenges for a number of reasons. Sexual situations. Crude language. Drinking, smoking and drug use. It’s true that the maturity level of these novels is high. But young adults can handle it. More than that, they need to read these books.
Green’s novel is an in-depth look at what it feels like to be in high school, and it isn’t always PG-13. "Looking for Alaska’s" one sexual scene is considerably less graphic than your typical episode of "Game of Thrones," and the novel’s deeper ideas about identity and loss are more central to the plot.
Alexie’s novel has also been criticized for its heavy themes. The protagonist of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" lives on a reservation where alcoholism, suicide and poverty are major problems.
Young adults reading the novel could gain some perspective on how life is for those less fortunate.
The most frustrating on the list is "Thirteen Reasons Why." It is a novel about suicide, detailing the terrible events that led up to a young girl taking her own life and the chaos she left behind. It leaves the reader shaken, but more informed than they were before.
Banning this book is not only unnecessary, but also potentially dangerous. Many teens have claimed that they were on the brink of suicide when someone handed them "Thirteen Reasons Why," and it changed their minds.
Authors, especially young adult authors, should not be punished for portraying the world the way it really is. Instead of denying their children access to books that deal with darker themes, parents should use them as a gateway to have a conversation with their child about these issues. You never know when a book might save someone’s life.