In a community near mine, there is a fight against censorship going on. You see, a library assistant found a copy of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier and decided that it was inappropriate for children. She challenged it's shelving. (For the record, while I am never, NEVER for supporting censorship, I fully support the process of challenging shelving. Some books don't belong in the kids' section and frankly, some books don't belong in crafts or in non fiction, or in adult fiction. These decisions are sometimes made by people who have never read the book.)
She lost. So, rather than just move on with her life. She checked the book out. For a year. I guess she would have kept it out forever, but someone put a hold on the book. (An 11 year old girl, for what it's worth.) She debated about what to do, consulted a colleague and just removed the hold. Please hold, my head is exploding.
I regularly have holds removed because my card is locked, so I know all about that, but really, this is flat out abuse of power. Okay, you have a problem with that, whatever, call her mom, but to just quietly remove a hold on a book??
Anyway, I digress. She got caught. She got fired. (Take that, book burning coward.) And that's the end of the story.
Except it isn't. She has garnered support from people who believe that this book should be banned. Who are *shocked* that there is nudity in a graphic novel. Oh my.
Frankly, I think the problem here is that people somehow believe that graphic novels are comics and that comics are for kids. Both parts of that sentence are incorrect. Graphic novels are novels. It's in the name. There are kids graphic novels and adult graphic novels, just like there are kids novels and adult novels. I'm sure this woman hasn't checked out every adult novel with a sex scene in it, because, well, she'd have the whole freakin' library at her house.
Some people want this book to be removed from the library completely. The more mentally balanced people want it removed from the graphic novel section because it's appealing to kids and bright and colorful and near young adult fiction.
Okay, I think a better move here would be to move the graphic novel section out of young adult fiction. The book in question is a graphic novel, and as such should be shelved with the rest of the graphic novels, the majority of which are probably for adults.
I've never read this particular book and I've only seen a few panels online, but I have read other Alan Moore novels, The Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I have also read Frank Miller's Sin City or at least parts of it. I will readily admit that these are not kids' books. These are books with adult themes written for adult audiences.
I will also admit that it doesn't look like I'd be jumping up and down for my kid to read these. On the other hand, I started reading Stephen King at twelve. I read Gerald's Game at around 14. So, yeah, I think it depends on the kid.
Which brings me round to my point. (I know, I know, in record time, even.)
Censorship isn't about whether or not you understand the argument against the work in question. It's not about whether or not you sympathize with those who want to keep kids from getting in over their heads. It's not about whether or not you want your kid to read this work. It's about the fact that no one has the right to determine what the rest of us can and can't read.
Whether or not your kid reads this book is between you and your kid. Whether or not this book has a place in the local library is about whether or not it's a published book and people want to read it. Obviously, because it was purchased because of a request and what brought this up was a hold request, people want to read it.
Censorship is still around because people can understand it. People can sympathize with wanting to protect their kids, their community. Sure, I get that. I kicked my kid out the front door yesterday so she wouldn't hear a conversation about child abuse.
But I would never tell another parent what their kid should and shouldn't read. And I would certainly never tell a whole community that they aren't intelligent enough, savvy enough to read fiction and label it as fiction. (Especially graphic fiction with as many pictures as words.)
Censorship is wrong. It's the removal of personal freedom. It's the destruction of reason and free flowing ideas.
John Milton, in his treatise Aereopagitica, wrote that a man of faith could only remain a man of faith by exploring the intellect of the world. In other words, faith is strengthened by existing in a world of unfettered thought, free-flowing information and rampant knowledge. Faith needs challenging to grow. He backs this contention up with more scripture than any self-righteous library workers could ever conjure.
Milton was fighting against a government he helped to install when he wrote and illegally published Aereopagitica. I wonder what he would think if he could see our world today. On the one hand, the internet has certainly added to our free-flowing information, making almost any desirable knowledge available at a mouse click. But on the other hand, we are still fighting the same battles. Still fighting a select few that believe they are the elite, the chosen, the capable. That they should decide what you and I see.
If you want to protect your child, go to the library with them. My library allows you to place a restriction on your child's card that they can only check out books from certain sections. And all childrens' cards are restricted from the DVD, Video and CD section of the library. It's possible to protect one without restricting everyone else.
But I would argue that a better tack would be to stop trying to protect your child and start teaching them. Teach them about censorship and the problem of group think. Teach them to talk to you when they read something that disturbs them. Read what they read and help them deal with the problems that arise.
Yes, sometimes, you may have to tell them that something is not age appropriate. Brynna always wants me to read my horror novels to her because they have interesting covers. I have to say no because I want her to sleep sometime this century. But when you do, offer an alternative. That's what got us started on the Worst Witch books and we both LOVE them.
But remember that your control only extend to you and yours. Not to the world at large. The old TV adage, if you don't like it, turn it off applies to books, too. If you don't like it, close the cover and take it back. The rest of us may want to check it out.
"Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be monopolized and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards. We must not think to make a staple commodity of all the knowledge in the land, to mark and license it like our broadcloth and our woolpacks."