Friday, September 29, 2017

Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers


I've had this book for several years and I finally remembered to read it for Banned Books Week. It's a solid short story collection and, as I expected, I liked some stories much better than others. It's a young adult collection and to be perfectly honest, there were two stories that made me uncomfortable as an adult reader. I don't say this because I felt they were bad influences on young readers or anything like that, but because they dealt with some really tough subjects. The stories I was uncomfortable with involved animal cruelty, lack of consent, and that feeling of paralyzing powerlessness when characters were in certain peer situations. Aren't these things that should make me uncomfortable? And aren't they worth discussing or contemplating anyway? I'm not saying anyone has to read this -- or any other book. No one is required to pick up a story they find triggering or anxiety-inducing. Trust me, there are plenty of books I avoid because I know I just can't handle them. And no one is required to allow their children to read whatever they feel like. But banning or censoring is not the answer.

Beyond the short stories in this collection, each contributing author wrote an essay about their experiences with and thoughts about censorship and I wanted to share a few of those gems to illustrate the wisdom found in these pages. Even if you don't read the stories, this book is worth checking out for these essays (and Judy Blume's introduction) alone! There are so many great quotes, it was extremely hard to choose, but here are five of my favorites:

What I worry about most is the loss to young people. If no one speaks out for them, if they don't speak out for themselves, all they'll get for required reading will be the most bland books available. And instead of finding the information they need at the library, instead of finding the novels that illuminate life, they will find only those materials to which nobody could possibly object. 
-- Judy Blume

That's all we writers have, anyway; our minds and imaginations. To allow censors even the tiniest space in there with us can only lead to dullness, imitation, and mediocrity. 
-- Norma Fox Mazer

Self-censorship can be very damaging to a story. When our chief goal is not to offend someone, we are not likely to write a book that will deeply affect someone. 
-- Katherine Paterson

Books are our windows on the world. They permit us to safely experience other lives and ways of thinking and feeling. Books give us a glimmer of the complexity and wonder of life. All this, the censor would deny us. 
-- Harry Mazer

A child's parents should be able to forbid their son or daughter from reading a book of mine or anyone else's. However, those same parents should have zero control over what everyone else's kids can read.
-- Paul Zindel

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

6 comments:

  1. Interesting and I know what you mean about difficult subject matter.

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    1. It can definitely be tricky to navigate!

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  2. I try to make myself read books on tough topics, but child abuse and animal abuse are topics I'll always avoid. I'm just not willing to make myself read about a topic I find so heartbreaking!

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    1. I think it is smart to know your limits. If there is a topic you know you find too difficult, that's OK!

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I'd love to hear what you think :)