John Green Reacts to 'The Fault in Our Stars' Ban, Plus 8 Other Authors Who Used Book Banning As a Platform
John Green's heartbreaking The Fault in Our Stars has been one of the most popular YA novels of this generation, but recently angry parents just realized it existed and decided to ban TFIOS from a middle school in California. Censors cited its inappropriate sexual content and its focus on mortality.
Green himself was asked over and over about the banning of his beloved book, and he responded on his personal Tumblr to say just how he felt. He responded, in full:
I guess I am both happy and sad.I am happy because apparently young people in Riverside, California will never witness or experience mortality since they won’t be reading my book, which is great for them.But I am also sad because I was really hoping I would be able to introduce the idea that human beings die to the children of Riverside, California and thereby crush their dreams of immortality.
I'll let Prof. Minerva McGonagall just do what we're all thinking.
But Green isn't the only writer to throw down after his or her book was banned from libraries or schools.
Judy Blume is a famous opponent of censorship and book banning for children. She has gone to bat for hundreds of her author peers, and of course, for several of her own banned books while on the board of the National Coalition Against Censorship. In an interview with The Telegraph, she uses the most important weapon of all to vanquish censors: logic.
A lot of people worry much too much about what their children are reading. A lot of people will want to control everything in their children’s lives, or everything in other people’s children’s lives. If a child picks up a book and reads something she has a question about, if she can go to her parents, great. Or else they will read right over it. It won’t mean a thing. They are very good, I think, at monitoring what makes them feel uncomfortable. If something makes them feel uncomfortable they will put it down.
I love how delicately Blume can say, "Hey parents, do your job." But it certainly doesn't stop there for Blume. She has her own site dedicated to this fight against banning books, and she has spoken out numerous times on the issue.
One of the authors she has stood behind has been Stephen Chbosky, whose The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a frequently banned book.
After Perks was removed from schools in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, the students rose up and fought back, creating a YouTube video to go along with their campaign.
When word got back to Chboksy on the students' efforts, he was inspired:
The one thing that it doesn’t change [about getting banned] is how moved I’ve become by the passion and the idealism and optimism of young people. The older I get, it actually becomes more pronounced.
So often in the book banning process, students voices are silenced. Chbosky is here to remind you all to speak up if you don't want a book removed.
But sometimes, a book meant to entertain children under 10 is banned. This has happened to icon Maurice Sendak too many times to count. In a 2012 interview with Stephen Colbert, Sendak discussed why his picture book In The Night Kitchen has been banned so frequently. First, there's this candid exchange:
Colbert: “This one gets banned all over the place. And you know why.”Sendak: “He’s got a dick.”
And then later, Colbert takes him to task, but Sendak has something very simple to say about that.
Colbert: “Why are you printing a smutty book?”Sendak: “Because he’s a boy.”C: “Yeah, yeah, but you don’t have to rub it in our face. Boys wear pants.”S: “Not when they’re dreaming. Have you never had a dream yourself where you were totally naked?”C: “No.”S: “Well I think you’re a man of little imagination.”
To Kill A Mockingbird is famously one of the most frequently challenged books ever, partly because, as we all remember, it's a crucial part of the high school curriculum and so parents are even more aware of it. In 1966, she fought back with a letter to The Richmond News Leader when the book was removed from all libraries in the Hanover County School district in Virginia. Here's Lee's entire letter:
Editor, The News Leader:Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that "To Kill a Mockingbird" spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is "immoral" has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.Harper Lee
Pullman's The Golden Compass is beloved worldwide, which probably only makes it a bigger target of censors. The novel has been criticized for vague reasons like "subject matter" and "inappropriate content," but Pullman said he received this news with "glee" because frankly, don't those censors know that they're only driving his book sales if it's not available in libraries? Touché.
However, when religious fanatics came for his novel, he was ready with his SAT words:
Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good.
I could not agree more.
Satanism! That's the main argument against Rowling's pervasive Harry Potter series. Frankly, nothing is going to stop kids from reading Harry Potter unless you literally ban every computer, library, book store, and memory bank in the world. But that doesn't mean Rowling is going to take her censorship sitting down. In an interview with Katie Couric, she addressed the satanic criticism:
There are people who are uncomfortable with the fact that I explore morality to an extent. The children do challenge accepted authority, they do break rules. I think those are healthy things. I'm never going to agree with someone who feels you should shut up and do what you're told because I'm older than you. I don't think that's a good basis for education.
Myracle has been very open about what it's like to have a book banned, from the first pangs of "Oh, no I've done something wrong" to acceptance and frustration with censorship. She wrote a piece in The Huffington Post that describes the process, and what she thinks about her books being frequently challenged now:
Being an author of banned books is cool, I've decided. My thirteen-year-old son sure thinks so. He got seventeen texts on the day the list was made public, all of them from girls (!!!), and all congratulating him for having a bad-ass for a mom. (I'm actually not a bad-ass, but if it gives my adorkable son some street cred, I'm happy to play along.)
What I find cool about being a banned author is this: I'm writing books that evoke a reaction, books that, if dropped in a lake, go down not with a whimper but a splash. And for the record? At least one upset adult has flung a book of mine into a lake, her school library's copy of ttyl, which her twelve-year-old daughter checked out and almost finished before making the mistake of asking her mom what a "queef" was.
Me? I would have told her. Hey, queefs happen.
Preach, Lauren. Why can't we all just talk to kids?
Today, Mark Twain is still a constant target for censorship, but while he was alive, he used his signature wit to fight back against his books being banned. When he received a letter from the Brooklyn Public Library notifying him of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn's banning, one that asked him to keep this letter quiet, he responded with a hilarious, but totally on point letter of his own.
DEAR SIR:I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck's character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children's Department, won't you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship? Sincerely yours,(Signed, 'S. L. Clemens')I shall not show your letter to anyone—it is safe with me.
I think it's time for another slow clap gif.
Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (3)