The AfterEllen.com Huddle: Banned Books

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Some of the best books that have ever been written have been deemed uncouth by the world’s most pearl-clutching parents and other concerned citizens (librarians, teachers, adults who are worried about teen’s impressionable minds). It’s not a coincidence that the work that is most challenged is from and about characters of different backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual identities. The most colorful books are those that tell the truth about society. They dare to say “Hey, this exists. We exist,” and they are the stories that are most necessary to the same youth of the world that a bunch of banners are trying to protect.

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From The Well of Loneliness to Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home, banned books are among the best literature ever published. So in honor of Banned Books Week, this huddle is dedicated to those we gladly read in defiance of censorship and otherwise pointless prudishness.

Lucy Hallowell: Without a doubt my favorite thing that we have ever done is when we (the gaymos on the internet) bought books for teens who were told “Hey, don’t read The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” I really loved that book and every time I think of those ding-dongs in Delaware trying to A) tell kids they shouldn’t read it, and B) pretending because there was swearing in it (instead of because of the lesbians) I get unreasonably angry.

Great books open your eyes to other worlds and sometimes let you know you aren’t alone. Cam Post does that and that’s why it’s one of my favorite banned books. 

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Valerie Anne: I just looked at a list of the most frequently banned books and saw And Tango Makes Three on the list and GOT SO MAD. IT’S ABOUT PENGUINS. IT’S THE TRUE STORY OF TWO MALE PENGUINS WHO RAISED A TINY BABY PENGUIN TOGETHER AND WERE HAPPIER FOR IT. What better way to teach children about different kinds of family?! ALSO, IT’S PENGUINS

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Oh, also also, these are some of the reasons often listed for banning it: Anti-family, homosexuality, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda.” Okay one, it’s ABOUT A FAMILY. Two, penguins are timeless and are suitable for all age groups. Three, it’s more like it promotes the MAKE PENGUINS HAPPY AGENDA. HAVE YOU NO SOULS, BOOK BANNERS? WHY DO YOU HATE PENGUINS?

Eh hem. Sorry. I just think banning a book is stupid. Guess what, not letting your kid read a book about gay penguins isn’t going to prevent them from ever learning what “gay” is. It also won’t stop them from being queer if they are. Let your kids read whatever books they want, then have a conversation about it with them.  

Trish Bendix: Basically the Banned Books list serves as a “must-read list” because perusing the titles that have been challenged over the years shows just how much progressive work and themes seem to be so threatening to people that are living a charmed existence. On that note, I’m going to choose Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, which was taken to task over its inappropriate discussion of incest and rape of a young girl. Considering this book is based on the queer author’s life, and hit home with so many others who dealt with similar tragic circumstances in their youth, should highlight just now necessary this kind of book was at the time, and continues to be. 

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Erin Faith Wilson: I’m going to be honest right now and say that I did not know of any banned books off the top of my head, so I Googled “banned books” and I am shocked to see some of the greatest books of all time on this list. I mean Gone with the WindThe Color Purple? To Kill a Mockingbird? Why in the world would someone want these classics banned! I am not picking one book because I am standing in support for all banned books of the past, present and future. Also, here’s an idea: If you don’t like it, DON’T READ IT. Problem solved.

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Ali Davis: I went through the ALA’s banned book lists and I was stunned to find John Gardner‘s Grendel on one. I first read it when it was assigned in the 9th grade and it absolutely blew my mind. It completely changed the way I thought about writing and storytelling and even made me think about the grey areas between good and evil. 

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In other words, it did exactly what a school-assigned book should do. And people wanted to keep it from doing that in schools because it’s—let’s look that up—”crude” in some places. There needs to be some sort of banned-books workout, because banning books makes me chair-throwing mad.

Chelsea Steiner: 1984. Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World. Anyone banning these books must have zero sense of irony, am I right? 

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Kim Hoffman: The Talented Mr. Ripley (and its entire series of five books, Ripliad) by babe author Patricia Highsmith, a very queer and mysterious lady. This photo of her…like, “Yeah, ban me, bitches.”

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Grace Chu: I just went to the ALA’s banned books list and saw that The Hunger Games is on there for “religious viewpoint.” And Harry Potter is on there for “Satanism.” Religious zealots really do have too much time on their hands.

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Miranda Meyer: “According to the American Library Association, Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series was banned in some schools for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority.” I’ve never even read Captain Underpants but, by god, armed with this information I will defend it to the death. DISOBEY AUTHORITY, EVERYONE. My favorite banned book (of many competitors) is still Brave New World, though.

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Chloe: American Psycho for teaching me what “skull fuck” means. 

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What’s your favorite banned book?