You are currently viewing BANNING BOOKS, SO MISGUIDED THAT IT BOGGLES . . .



This isn’t a new thing. Books have been (insanely) banned for centuries, for a host of reasons. We sort of laugh about it in publishing, knowing that a banned book will be read by gazillions of folks because of it.

Highland Park High School, in Dallas Texas, took to this true insanity a few years ago. Books now needing permission slips from parents include: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. These are for 11th-grade Advanced Placement English students, who elect to take the college-level course. This resulted from parents deeming books too mature for teens.

Seriously? They offended parents’ sensibilities, in one way or another, and adults literally had one book jerked while the students were reading it—which meant the teachers couldn’t discuss the themes in their classrooms.

The debate grew so heated that in September of 2014, the superintendent suspended seven books, then reversed the decision after heated backlash.

And while I do rejoice that the parents at least knew what their kids were reading, and were involved, and parents should have a say in what their kids are taught, this banned list is so misguided that it boggles the mind. Especially one.

The Art of Racing in the Rain?!?! A book about what it means to follow your dreams, about true compassion and love. About fighting for those you love, against astronomical odds. Truly, about the art of living.

And those same kids are watching The Real Housewives of Nekkid City, the characters drunk half the time, boobs hanging out, cursing like sailors, without a moral fiber between them. Don’t tell me kids aren’t—I hear them talking about it.

When my nieces were teenagers, I was a lifeline for them. They could tell me anything—and did. Dear God, what I learned. As my niece’s friend said, “We can talk to you, Aunt Sue, ‘cause you’re not really an adult.” I took that as high praise then, and still do. Because by being able to tell me anything, we got through some fairly perilous times.

The teenage passage is a tumultuous one, filled with demons and ogres at the gates. It’s complicated, although adults often laugh that off. But the journey is fraught with perils, with the potential of lifetime mistakes at every curve. Many of which can produce lasting results of ruin. Yep, sounds a bit purple. But true. And it never ceases to amaze me how adults get teenage amnesia, burying so deeply their own troubles from the time, believing their own kids are skating through.

No one skates through.

One thing I know for true is that old saying: “Your children are leading very different lives from the ones you think they are.” Yeah, buddy. Even the goodiest two-shoes of the bunch is well aware of what’s going on, and dealing with it. So let’s jerk works of wonderful literature from them and replace it with platitudes and BS.

A sophomore from Highland Park High School said it best, in an NPR interview: “We’re dealing with so much more than what’s in these books.” Out of the mouths of babes.

Far Beit that we challenge them with thought, dissecting moral issues, presenting them with quandaries from which they grow. Oh, no. Instead feed them television pablum—and worse.

Because the point is, that’s exactly what great works of literature do: They cause you to think. To feel. To be faced with moral quandaries and grapple with what you would do about them. To read about the “other” in our midst and realize that she’s not so different from us after all . . .

So today, get a banned book for your teenager to read. Read it as she does. Talk about it. Listen to her thoughts about what happens, choices made, moral decisions. You just might learn something about what’s actually going on in her world.

But don’t get too excited about that. She’ll still keep her secrets. And hopefully, she has an old Aunt Sue to tell them to . . .

How do you get your kids to talk about issues?

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Hi Susan! As I’m sure you can guess, I so agree with this. I am actually quite glad I don’t have children (not to mention teenagers!) because the visual media they have access to today is truly daunting. Sexuality is rampant. But far far worse, in my opinion, is the horrific violence of all types routinely shown on nearly every television show. How any parent can say that classic books with thoughtful themes can be banned is surely a sign of lack of awareness by parents. And I’ll bet you those parents haven’t read those books they want banned. They are just following the outrage spoken by their friends or church. I also find it rather predictive that the even the comedies found in the movies and TV have become extremely critical, sarcastic and disrespectful to others all in the name of comedy. Funny how that has almost become our national discourse these days. Don’t get me going!!!! Good for you for being a voice of reason to those young ones in your family. ~Kathy

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t it just the most ironic thing in the world, Kathy–our kids are exposed to everything negative we can think of, as you said, right there on the TV and social media. But for god’s sakes, don’t let them read Huckleberry Finn! And I agree entirely–most of the time folks are just following what they’re told, rather than finding out the truth themselves. Such as actually reading the book!

  2. Neely Moldovan

    When I was younger I talked to my mom about everything. There was no subject too taboo. I hope to be like that with my son.

  3. Janella Panchamsingh

    raising kids in this world is so scary for me right now they are forced fed so many things that they don’t need to be subjected to.

    1. Susan Malone

      True, Janella. But great works of literature aren’t one of those things!

  4. Jen

    As a parent of a teenager, it’s so important for us not to shield them from the world but teach them how to live in it with morals and standards. Banning or hiding just makes it more sensational vs just being able to talk through it with them.

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t that just the truth, Jen. And they’re gonna see it anyway, so what a great opportunity for discussion!

  5. Tamuria

    I cannot believe people are still resorting to banning books – just crazy. As you pointed out it only serves to draw more attention to them and make them more tempting. That is the upside. The downside is the effort put in to trying to control people. As for kids and their secret lives, I think parents often know there is much going on they are ignorant about but learn to accept it as they are powerless to stop it. I am all at once horrified and yet unsurprised when my sons discuss some of their teenage antics. Mostly I’m just so grateful they made it through – not skating, but slipping and falling and sometimes crawling. Your nieces were lucky to have you, Susan. It’s an awesome responsibility to be the caretaker of secrets. One of the go to people for one of my sons messed up royaly and we very nearly lost him.

    1. Susan Malone

      It is crazy, isn’t it, Tami. And I can only laugh–as an author, I pray my books get banned! No better way for great sales 🙂 I’ve been there–in the horrified seat–when listening to them talk. OMG. Sometimes I had to tie my hands from yanking the girls bald. Sometimes I didn’t tie my hands 🙂
      Eeek on your son!
      There are times I simply fall into gratitude that all these kids survived. Although I have to say, I feel the same way for me and all my friends 🙂

  6. Heather Johnson

    Every book is going to offend somebody. However, the solution is simple. If you do not like a book, do not read it. But do not try to tell anyone else what to read or not to read.

    1. Susan Malone

      That’s the ticket, Heather. We’re not forced to buy anything. Nor do we have the right to keep others from reading what they want.

  7. Liz Mays

    It’s definitely interesting to look at the list of books that have been banned throughout history. The reasons given for some of them probably make little sense nowadays.

    1. Susan Malone

      It is, isn’t it, Liz. Sometimes you just scratch your head!

  8. Apolline Adiju

    You are right, and I think it is a good strategy to get our kids talking. I did not have that kind of relationship with my parents when I was growing. There were many topics that I could not discuss with them. That would not be the case when my daughter grows up because I plan to be more open and direct with her.

    1. Susan Malone

      That is perfect, Apolline! We know that communication with kids is, well, everything. And since we know they’re going to be exposed to far worse than what’s in these banned books, might as well start there!

  9. I think you mean boggles in your title? If I want my oldest to talk about an issue I simply ask him about it and he will.

    1. Susan Malone

      So great that you have that relationship with your son!

  10. christine

    Oh man, now you’ve got me all angry this morning. I seriously have to question what bubble people live in some times. I mean, there is nothing in any of those books that their kids aren’t probably aware of or have been exposed to much worse. My generation is raising a bunch of wimpy, live in a bubble, babies that will never survive in the real world if they’re sheltered 🙂

    1. Susan Malone

      I SO agree, Christine. Kids are exposed to much worse. And sheltering kids from reality scares me to death too!

  11. Natasha Botkin

    This still continues today! I’ve had many displeasant conversations over school board approved books and one or two who were offended. The saddest part is taking away a valuable form of education.

    1. Susan Malone

      It’s just amazing, Natasha, isn’t it. And I so agree–this is a valuable form of education!

  12. Vatsala Shukla

    I’ve never quite understood why a book that is considered a classic is banned, Susan. Don’t these people know that by making something a forbidden fruit, people will go underground to read it? I remember the time Satanic Verses came out and was banned etc That time I could understand the sentiment but when Enid Blyton’s books were rewritten because of the language I started to wonder about what was going on in the censors mind. I mean, I never thought of Noddy and friends being anything but story characters. Or did I, as a child get it wrong?

    There’s so much stuff on the tv and internet nowadays that could warp a young child’s mind, like that Blue Whale game. Let children and teenagers read!

    1. Susan Malone

      I don’t understand it either, Vatsala. Banning books is just anathema to me.
      And no, you didn’t get Blyton wrong! I hate to think of censors causing language to be rewritten. That makes me shudder.
      And I agree entirely–TV and the Internet is filled with such trash and horror. So, we ban books . . .

  13. Joyce Hansen

    I must admit it’s bee a long while since I’ve read the banned books. Time for me to revert to the good old days of childhood and read them again. I haven’t a clue what parents think they are protecting their children from.

    1. Susan Malone

      Nor do I, Joyce. But summer is a great time to read fiction!

  14. gingermommy

    My kids range in age from 8-23 and one thing I know for certain, they know way more than parents give them credit for. With the internet there is more for them to access than what these books could contain. We have many opportunities each day to talk openly and I as their mom take full advantage of this when possible.

    1. Susan Malone

      Now that’s being a good mom! I love that you talk openly to your kids. And it is amazing what they know, isn’t it.

  15. Reba Linker

    Thank you for this, Susan. Well meaning as those book-banners may be (and I, too, applaud them for wanting to protect their children), as you so rightly point out: “those same kids are watching The Real Housewives”. So perhaps the message here should be let’s not all jump to action and judgment so quickly. How embarrassing for the book banners to have winnowed out Huck Finn, and yet allowed a deluge of smut through the floodgates. Or perhaps it is simply a lack of courage. After all, Mark Twain can no longer tweet back!

    1. Susan Malone

      LOL, Reba! I LOVE that–Mark Twain can no longer tweet back! In that simple sentence, you just encapsulated our world of social-media mayhem!
      And I, too, wish we could all take a deep breath before rushing to judgment on, well, everything . . .

  16. Sue Kearney

    What a great idea, putting a banned book in the hands of a teenager. On my list of good-awesome-great things to do. Thank you.

  17. Cathy Sykora

    Oh my gosh, don’t get me started! And…what are they watching on television? ….or playing on video games? Banning books is just beyond words.

  18. Courtney

    Omg! I can’t believe those books are banned! All such classics. I remember reading them in high school and never thought they were too offensive or anything!

    1. Susan Malone

      Isn’t it insane, Courtney. Especially with kids exposed to so much today.

  19. Lorii Abela

    There might be a lot more valuable books that are banned that we do not even know. The world is huge. And, the interesting part is I am sure the number is growing as days pass. However, in a sense, all sorts of information is not accessible in the internet. Even though they are banned, they can probably even be downloaded for a $1. This just incites curiosity actually.

    1. Susan Malone

      Very true, Lorii. And I have to laugh–as authors, we always hope our books will be banned. That just brings them to light!

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