Soon you may find me, in a dark alley behind a bookstore or a library, wearing a trench-coat and sunglasses, whispering to passers-by… “psst.. hey man, yeah, you…. ‘mere… wanna read a book?”
YES, you read that correctly.
According to the American Library Association, the Harry Potter series has now not just joined the ranks of such classics as as The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, & 1984, by George Orwell, but has passed them all to become The Most Banned Book in America. That puts J.K. Rowling arm in arm with Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and Maya Angelou!
How messed up is that?
“It is undeniable that themes of death and resurrection abound in the stories, as well as detailed depictions of potions and other hocus pocus. But while there are Christians who decry the celebration of witchcraft, there are other Christians who consider Harry’s journey an edifying allegory for Jesus Christ.” (O.o What!?)
I’m a filthy, dirty, hellbound pagan, and loved these books – not because I learned to point a tree branch and fix my glasses, or because they were a covert way to teach my son about my religious beliefs. But, for the same reason I enjoyed any other fictional book, for the characters I fell in love with, for the stories I got lost in, for the joy of reading a phenomenal story!
As much as I want to rant & rave about the people who believe that these books are anything other than fictional novels, I’m trying to hold my tongue. But, they’re the same people who banned Captain Underpants.
“That is another problem with banning books: it obscures the diversity of viewpoints within its potential readership.” Once they’re banned, the only people who discuss their viewpoints – are the narrow-minded one-way thinkers.
Thankfully at least 450 million copies have been sold, so there is little danger that an eager reader will not be able to drudge up a copy. But, this wasn’t always the case!
Yet me ask you this, with fanatics such as Fred Phelps (for example), who twist around the words in that all holy book to fit their way of bigotry and hatred… why hasn’t The Holy Bible been banned every hotel in America?
About a decade ago, PEN joined with the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression to support an initiative called KidSpeak, a website designed to encourage kids to debate free expression issues and, at least initially, to debate whether J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series should be censored. The conversation had been prompted by a number of religious groups that claimed the fantasy series about young wizards promoted occultism and paganism, thereby undermining Christian values. Here is a response from a fifth grader: “I think the Harry Potter case is just crazy. I have an idea that kids seven and under need a permission slip to see if it’s okay for seven and under to read Harry Potter books. If parents of kids eight and older complain, the principal should just talk to them and tell them that it’s just fantasy.”
How are kids so intelligent & well spoken?
OH! That’s right…
What stands out about this student’s response, and the response from the rest of the elementary school classroom, is not just her indignation at the idea of censoring the Potter books — she crafted a policy that would protect younger children. The discussion prompted the student to think about free expression and also to develop her own creative solutions to address the concerns of others who held views different from her own.
Since the publication of The Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997, kids have discussed, dissected and debated the books with a critical eye. Anyone who has listened to Mugglecast, a podcast for Harry Potter lovers, must acknowledge the close textual reading of every single chapter of the series, and fan fiction sites abound in an efflorescence of, albeit channeled, creativity. These books have taught children to read, to think, to write and to criticize, all hallmarks of free expression! How can that be a bad thing?
It’s these kids, the ones who learned to think critically & write creatively, who will soon be flooding the literary world with their ideas. These are also the ones who will probably be on a banned list of their own. And, that, is what gives me hope.
What has been your favorite book that has ended up on the BANNED LIST?
What do you think is the craziest book to end up in the BANNED LIST has been?