This week is Banned Book week, celebrating those novels that others felt compelled to remove from libraries and/or schools for a variety of reasons. MUCH has been written on this from bloggers throughout the world; I did not feel obliged to share my viewpoint on the matter, as I’ve made it fairly clear over the past year just how I feel about banning or challenging books.
However, I happened to catch the tail end of a conversation on Twitter this week that discussed how dismayed one blogger was because of comments left on her blog that stated that her review about a certain book was wrong and this person’s view on the book was correct. In addition to being dismayed that we have yet another situation of intolerance of differing opinions, I was struck by the irony of this discussion occurring this week. For, doesn’t the banning of books come down to the vocalization of differing opinion where one opinion reigns supreme?
Why are books banned? It starts with a very vocal minority reading a book and interpreting it a certain way, thinking it is a danger to other children because of this interpretation and taking this interpretation to those in charge. They then are able to convince the powers-that-be that they have a valid point. It does not matter to them that others may have alternative interpretations. They are convinced they are right and are able to convince others of this same “fact”.
When bloggers argue about books, and even go so far as to state that one opinion is right while another person’s is wrong, we are in danger of adopting a similar mentality as banning books. There is no right or wrong when it comes to reading and interpreting novels. Rather, it is our unique interpretations that allows us to each write about books in a way that never gets boring. Outright declaring an opinion as wrong is a dangerous road, establishing a precedence for intolerance and even worse, prohibiting a discussion about the one thing that brings us all together.
I continue to be amazed and dismayed that there are those in the blogging community who feel so black and white about novels to the point where there is no room for a healthy debate or even reasonable doubt. It certainly detracts from the sense of community on which we pride ourselves, and whenever I hear about this situation occurring, I can’t help but be a little ashamed that this is still an issue. Until we, as bloggers, can learn that differing opinions are welcome and expected and a point of discussion rather than a bone of contention, we will never be able to battle those that continue to pull books from library shelves in the name of protecting our children. For, to me, the two trains of thought are one and the same, equally dangerous and equally destructive.
Thoughts? Have you ever had someone tell you that your opinion about a book is wrong? How did you handle it? Do you see the danger in this train of thought or is it just me?
It is very difficult not to take other people's comments personally, especially when the book is one you absolutely loved. I agree that yes, I have been known to be a bit too sensitive about such comments, but I do stand by the fact that like you said, we are all different and should not be expected to think the same things about any book. Nor should we lump all readers into certain categories. We may like the same book, but our reasons for doing so are going to be different as well. Differences are vital when discussing books, otherwise there is not much of a discussion. We all need to get better about celebrating those differences, however small, because I do think that to not do so does put us one step closer to becoming similar to those who seek to ban books.
Katrina – You are so right! Our opinions of a book can change with a shift in mood, a new situation in one's personal life or even with the weather. To state that one opinion is right or wrong is asinine IMO.
Good for you for sticking up for the Raymond Briggs Father Christmas books! I love hearing success stories like that!
Valerie, I get this a lot whenever I gush about my love of the Twilight saga. People tend to look at me askance if I publicly state I am a Twilight fan. Why? To what purpose does it serve them to point out to me why they feel Twilight is a horrible book? I have a different opinion and no one is going to change it. Yet, there it is.
In the few instances I have seen this happen on a blog, snark on the part of the blogger is not the problem. In fact, the blogger is typically the most polite of them all. The most recent example I know had the commentators making absolutely awful comments about the blogger, when all she was doing was sharing her opinion. It is this attitude that most concerns me.
I get this whenever I declare my love for the Twilight saga, so I can understand completely. Having different viewpoints IS a good thing, and we should all be able and willing to share our differing viewpoints with respect.
Isn't it awful? Yet, I'm sure we have all either seen comments left by someone on someone else's blog or we've had it happen to our own. Even the whole Twilight debate or even the Mockingjay debate is evidence of this. I agree there is no right or wrong answer. Unlike your students, I wish my teachers would have emphasized this more.
Oh my gosh Michelle – great post. I've been told I'm on a witch hunt because of my view on certain books, so yeah, it is frustrating. I've also had a post recently explode because I had a wrong opinion. I can't understand people who think that everyone should think the same way, find the same things in books, and agree on everything. What a boring life that would be. I think we all get different things from the same book and that is a GOOD thing!
My recent post September Reading Wrap-Up & WotS Halifax Recap
This idea-that one reader would tell another they were wrong-is crazy to me. My favorite thing about books/literature is that there isn't one right answer. I tell my students all the time that as long as you can support it with the book, anything is true about the characters, your ideas, etc. Banned Book Week is the best example of intolerance running rampant among books. I hate that people who love books would talk to each other this way.