There is nothing like a parent saying, “Don’t read this book,” to make a child more intrigued than ever. Like a poison apple, the temptation is impossible to resist.
As a teenager, under the covers with a flashlight, I read “Go Ask Alice,” by Anonymous. The anonymous teen’s journal follows her passage as she runs away from home, becomes a drug addict, is forced into prostitution, suffers rape, and attempts to become sober and return home. It is a dark and scary spiral of destruction that scared the heck out of my pampered middle-class life.
With its controversial content, is no surprise that “Go Ask Alice” is one of the most frequently banned books. But how effective is it to ban books? And I’m not going to deny that there is a difference between offering age appropriate reading material and banning books.
But I ask, was it good for me to read “Go Ask Alice” at that age? Maybe. It certainly gave me a realistic view of the dangers that teen runaways encounter and the addictiveness of drugs.
Could I have stopped reading it at any point? Definitely.
Did I idolize or want to emulate the main character’s lifestyle? Definitely NOT.
But also, did I understand that it was a work of fiction at the time I read it? No – I thought I was reading a ‘real’ teenager’s journal. (You can read more about the theories behind the author’s content here.)
Those who ban books always have the best interest of others in mind. But writing about extreme characters and situations are what make books. As readers, do we want to read about a perfect main character who does everything right? Or about an edgy character who does things that a reader might be afraid of in real life. Do we want to read about main characters that have lives exactly like ours? Or about characters that solve, save, experience and explore?
Recently I also read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. His main character, Junior, is a teenage boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, but attends a white school which is located just outside the reservation. As Junior deals with being a new kid with braids in a white school, basketball tryouts, poverty, family deaths and the guilt his friends inflict because he left them behind on the reservation, his observations of life are both so mature and so tragically teenagery. Oh, and he masturbates. Remember, he’s a teenage boy.
The real life issues of race, alcoholism and masturbation are enough to land this book on many banned book lists as well. But the emotions with which Alexie wrote were enough to also win the National Book Award in 2007.
So, just a test, here is a list from the American Library Association of the Top 97 Classic Banned Books. How many have you read?
And here is a list of Children’s Books From Amazon that probably contain many of your favorites from childhood. How many have you read?
BQB Publishing doesn’t have any book that have landed on ‘Banned Book Lists’ (yet). But it doesn’t mean our book shy away from difficult topics and issues. If you’re interested, check out: