by S. L. Duncan
It’s Banned Books Week! Incidentally, it is also the release week for Write Angler Mindy McGinnis! (Go buy her book here. Trust me, you want to read it.)
The two are not related. But three cheers for Mindy!
It’s a funny thing, wanting to ban a book. I’m not sure what drives a person to believe that they are capable of more sound thought or making better moral decisions than their neighbors, but there seems to be a lot of that going around. Especially in the United States. And double especially if those moral values pertain to the behavior of a woman. Looking at history, this is nothing new. (See the banning of The Diary of Anne Frank, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, Alice in Wonderland, etc., etc.)
I live in Alabama. There is no shortage of under-cultured male politicians that think they know better about how you should live, or what you should eat, whom you should marry, or what you should read or see on television. Basically, we’re teaming with idiots in positions of power. Recently, Senator Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, sought to have banned Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, because he found it to be objectionable.
So, what makes something so objectionable that is becomes ban worthy? And should you be cognizant of the danger of your work being banned when you write? (Quick answer – no.)
Content is key. A person said that, I believe. Here in the U.S., people go nuts over potty-mouth words and sex. Blood and carnage, though? Not so much. In Europe, it’s nearly the complete opposite in terms of what offends their sensibilities.
America seems kinda backwards, doesn’t it? A character cutting a guy’s head off on TV is fine, so long as she don’t tell him she’ll shit down his throat prior to doing so. Sure both are horrible, but which is worse?
Just how backwards is it getting? Here’s a quote from Rolling Stone (source – Upworthy) that sums up how little anything makes sense: “America is just so weird in what they think is right and wrong…Like, I was watching Breaking Bad the other day, and they were cooking meth. I could literally cook meth because of that show. It’s a how-to. And then they bleeped out the word ‘fuck’. And I’m like, really? They killed a guy, disintegrated his body in acid, but you’re not allowed to say ‘fuck’? It’s like when they bleeped ‘molly’ at the [MTV Video Music Awards]. Look at what I’m doing up here right now, and you’re going to bleep out ‘molly’?”
Yeah. That’s Miley Cyrus. Even she gets how arbitrary and capricious it all can be. Scary, right?
My point for you, the reader here to gather tidbits and advice for writing and publishing, is you can’t worry about those who will object to the content of your work. I’m not saying don't censor yourself. Self-censoring can be a smart way to be economic in what you want to say, or making your ideas become more impactful on the page. But never censor yourself because you might offend the sensibilities of someone.
Be true to your story, your words. Because when those written words are challenged, know that all written words are challenged.
So, stand up to the egomaniacal politicians that think they know better. And read a banned book while you're at it.
But read Mindy's first.
S. L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, the first book in The Revelation Saga, due in 2014 from Medallion Press. You can find him blogging on INKROCK.com and on Twitter.