Banning. Censorship. Resistance. Rebellion.
I am not the rebellious sort. I am a nerd. A reader.
I come from a family of readers. Books and encyclopedias were on every shelf in our house. If someone was reading, we were not to disturb them unless the house was on fire or someone was bleeding.
My parents encouraged us to read and to read a lot. To ask questions. To read the opposition.
And especially, they wanted us to read books that were considered unpopular or even dangerous. They weren’t pushing an agenda, or belief system on us. They really wanted our opinions to be well informed. They wanted us to not just parrot someone else’s thoughts but to know why, and from where, we learned what we believed.
That’s why it was odd the first, and only, time my Mother tried to control my reading habits. Looking at the stack of books on my desk, she picked up one and told me I couldn’t read it.
Her choice of words was odd. I asked her what was wrong with the book. Why I couldn’t read it. I was thinking maybe she thought it was in a language I couldn’t read or something was wrong with my eyes I didn’t know about.
“It was on the list.” She then described there was a list she had gotten from another mother, a list of books that we, as teenagers, shouldn’t be allowed to read.
Allowed? That was new.
“Sorry,” I said, then admitted to I had already read it. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I offered her my copy, still confused why I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have read it.
It was only a few days when she handed the book back to me. (We are also a family of fast readers.) It sparked a conversation that lasted the rest of the evening. We often talked for long hours about books, and ideas, and history, and stories.
The book? It was Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s 1953, dystopian novel about a society that didn’t just ban books, they burned them. The populace got all their information from, get this, 24/7 propaganda based TV. Sound familiar?
This was written long before the 24 hour news cycle and opinion TV and social media. The book is clairvoyant in it’s premise. At least we aren’t being asked to burn books, just ban them.
Fahrenheit 451 is quite often on “banned book” lists, supposedly for reasons of language and violence. The leaders who want it banned don’t get the irony of their request. I suspect they never read it, either.
My parents never took another book away from me, except maybe to read it for themselves.
I won’t even get into my feelings and opinions about the recent flurry of banned books lists but will defer to the well thought out words of others:
I could not have said this better. The Silent Revolution: reading as an act of rebellion
Libraries. Protecting our right to read.
My kind of teenagers. I was one of these, once, and didn’t even realize it.