Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Beware of the Book" Banned Books Week 2011

So I am a little late joining the Banned Books Week celebration, but in reality, I celebrate Banned Books Week all year long.  In my ENG 111: Expository Writing class, I provide students with a list of the top 100 Banned/Challenged books from the past ten years (courtesy of the ALA).  They are required to choose one book off the list to read and research; then they write an argumentative essay for or against the banning of the book they chose.  I have received sound, convincing essays arguing both sides of the issue, and I am never disappointed in the discussions that spring up around the issue of censorship - (man, are my students surprised by some of the books they see on that list!).  I round out the unit with a narrative essay in which my students share their experiences with censorship (in any form).  In turn, I tell them about my first (remembered) experience with censorship and my first banned book, which in honor of Banned Books Week, I will share here.

I was about 13 or 14 years on the cusp of adolescence and an avid reader.  I had already devoured Judy Blume's teenage girl's Bible Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, and my mom had picked up her Forever for me to read next.  She flipped through the book before giving it to me, and noticing its sexy content, revoked my right to read it with a resounding "NO."  Instead of returning it to the bookstore, she hid it in the top of her closet under a plastic beach bag with light blue straps.  I discovered it by accident one day, and proceeded to lock myself in the bathroom to uncover what was so scandalous.  For those of you who have never read Forever (is there a girl left in this world who hasn't?) the novel is about a teenage girl, Katherine, who loses her virginity to her first boyfriend, Michael.  I was intrigued...and confused.  But Blume taught me two things about being a woman:

1. Sex without love means nothing.
2. You have to respect yourself.

And if a banned book can teach a girl those two lessons, then I say pass 'em around.

Celebrate the freedom to read!

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