Updates and a Rant on Book Bans
Hello everyone! I apologize that the first part of my review of The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray has been delayed. The post for it should hopefully happen in the next week, but I didn't realize how much there was going to be for me to talk about in just the preface and introductions alone! I understand that these introductions are obviously not Oscar Wilde's work, but I feel that they are important enough for me to discuss in order to give a brief look at the historical context of the book. Then, I will get into the actual body of work, which I think is going to be a much smoother and quicker process.
Now, onto what's been on my mind today: book bans. When we think of book bans, we might think of a so-called "bygone era" somewhere in the early decades of the 1900s, but what I want to discuss is modern book bans. Within the last two years especially, there have been at least 200-300 books banned from school libraries or challenged by the school. Some of these actually make sense, at least to me. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, for example, is not necessarily the most age-appropriate text, even in a high school. Others, like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, make less sense to me. For the former, I will say that it may be outdated in some of its depictions of the black experience (I also say this as a white woman, so take what I say with a grain of salt and always defer to black voices first on these issues), and so it may be time to say goodbye to teaching it in the classroom. But banning it entirely? I'm not so sure. As for the latter, Thomas' novel is challenged most frequently on the basis of profanity and possibly presenting an anti-police message. I tend to disregard counts of profanity since the kids reading it already know many of the words being used, and if there is a slur, it can prompt a discussion of the history and impact or implications of the slur being used.
I am all for kids getting to have discussions about race, gender, sexuality, etc. in a safe and age-appropriate way. There are ways to discuss these topics on a spectrum, much in the way I was taught about things like the Holocaust on a spectrum. When I was first told about it, the basics were that during WWII, many people (mainly Jewish) were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis. This was the bare minimum, surface-level explanation I was given in probably 4th or 5th grade. As I got older, there were more details added, and the bigger picture was better understood by me and my classmates by the time we graduated high school. Now, was my education about this topic perfect? No, but I still think that having these kinds of discussions with kids at an earlier age can better prepare them as they grow up and become their own people.
One topic I feel I have a better handle on when it comes to book banning is the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues. As someone who is bisexual and didn't really have a good understanding of the community until I left high school, I think that the banning of books like Melissa (formerly George until April of this year) by Alex Gino is completely ridiculous. The book is about a 4th grader who is assigned male at birth but is actually a trans girl. She uses her school play, Charlotte's Web, as a way to show her mom that she's a girl by switching roles with a friend so that she can play Charlotte. I wish there were books like this when I was growing up because I know it would have helped my understanding of trans issues much sooner. Even though I am not trans myself, I have plenty of friends who are trans and nonbinary, and having a book like this would have helped to make them feel seen and understood. It could have helped their own understanding of their identity and how it is a completely okay and normal thing to be. One argument I hear a lot from people who want to ban books like this is that it's "inappropriate." What exactly about a young girl discovering and sharing her identity is "inappropriate?" Similarly, when discussing issues of sexuality and coming out, I hear that it's too "sexual" and not something that should be discussed with children.
First, there are age-appropriate ways to address the issue of sexuality with all ages of children. It starts with learning about things like the different ways a family is made up (a mom and a dad, two moms, two dads, a single mom, a parent (nonbinary), etc.). This topic has nothing to do with what those adults do in the bedroom, so how is it any different from discussing heteronormative families? There never seemed to be a problem with showcasing affection or PDA between a man and a woman when I was a kid, and yet somehow when it's two men, two women, or anything other than a cis man or a cis woman, it's "inappropriate?" That makes no sense to me.
Now, this is by no means a comprehensive view of the issue at hand, and I'm not going to claim that it's anything other than a rant about things that have been on my mind and how I see them. Take it as it is or don't. That's the best way I can put it.
Anyway, I hope that you have a good rest of your week, and hopefully, I'll be back on track with Dorian Gray within the next week or so. See you then!