And that’s one of the many reasons I am sure I would be fired and I do not teach in public schools! I cannot follow rules, I don’t like paperwork, and I’m all about no testing and letting kids follow their own passion. If a kid asked me if she could read Stephen King instead of Shakespeare, I’d say, “Go for it!” You’ll find the same passion, the same violence, and the same humor, after all. One will just be harder to read.
I read my first banned book when I was about ten. I found a copy of Stephen King’s Cujo on my grandmother’s huge, imposing bookshelf (which is now mine) in her hallway one day and just sat down with it in the dark corner, secretly afraid that the cover would bite my fingers off. Yeah, I like to joke about that being child endangerment—especially since my grandma, my mother, and my fifth grade teacher all knew that I was reading it!—but it was the beginning of a life-long love of not just King, but reading.
I couldn’t get into any of the boring textbooks they’d had us read in school, and though I loved to read at home—my mother taught me before I started school and we read daily together—I didn’t love it this much. I didn’t crave my next book like a drug, I didn’t salivate anticipating an author’s new release like I do now. I have Mr. King and his rabid dog and his tragic, tragic book—I still get so sad when I think about it—and the deaths of all his other darlings to thank for it.
Banned Books Week isn’t just a time to celebrate being nonconformists or sex-crazed, profanity loving fiends; it’s a time to remember how important it is to celebrate and learn from the human experience. Our literature isn’t meant to be clean, profanity-free, and happy ending-ridden; it’s meant to be dark and horrifying, to reflect ourselves. If we want our literature to be squeaky clean, perhaps we should start with, hmm, outlawing rape and war. Yeah, that should do it.
In the meantime, I will continue treasuring my banned books and seeking further ones to read—as well as defending them because even though this banned status is way cool street cred, it’s also incredibly silly. I’ll ban the news in my home before I’ll ban books.