Navigation menu

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Banned Books Week Should Live On

The official Banned Books Week just ended yesterday. But since my blog post day was today, I'm going to write about this topic near and dear to my heart anyway. Really, we need more than a week to recognize that banning books is never a good idea and to talk about some of the issues that have come up this year.

In the beginning of September, I saw the following headline about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, a book I read and reviewed for The Muffin back in 2010:

Tennessee Parent: Acclaimed Medical History Book is Pornographic

If you haven't read the book, here's a bit about it from my review: "I'd never heard of Henrietta Lacks, pictured on the book cover, before I picked up Rebecca Skloot's wonderful book. Chances are, you haven't either. But you may have heard of HeLa cells or at the very least, information about medical research to find a polio vaccine or cure for cancer. In The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you finally meet the women behind HeLa cells, 'the first immortal cells ever grown in a laboratory,' as well as her family and key medical researchers."

That doesn't sound like porn at all, right? So what is this parent's beef with the book?  The book is on the summer reading list for high school students who go to L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville. Local station WBIR reported, "Her son has been provided with an alternate text, per district policy, but Sims said she wants the text out of the hands of all Knox County Schools students." Providing an alternate text is how the district deals with book complaints and can still stand behind their educators' curriculum decisions. 

Sims thinks the book is too graphic (it is written for adults, not teens), and some examples she mentions are when the author discusses Henrietta's husband's infidelity and a tumor on her cervix. The point that most articles concerning this mother's complaints raise and some parents have stated, whose children also go to this school, is that Sims has every right to stop her 15-year-old from reading a book she doesn't find appropriate, but she does not have the right to stop other kids from reading it. 


As writers and artists, we know this is true. Everyone has their own morals and beliefs. There are countless books in libraries, at bookstores, and online to purchase and read for you and your family. It is no one's right or mission in life to stop anyone from reading a particular book.

The American Library Association's website has a lot of information on banned books--they have top 10 lists concerning the most challenged and banned books--contemporary and classics.  Check it out if you want to see a list of great books you want to read because that's what banning books usually does--it gives the book publicity and makes people want to read it even more. I love this about our society.

I could go on and on about this topic but here's an example of a parent whom I think is doing things right. The other day, her 11-year-old daughter brought home a Maximum Ride book, and since she's not familiar with the series, she asked her Facebook friends what they thought. I responded asking if her daughter had read other series, such as Hunger Games, and what she thought of it. We had a discussion, along with her other friends. And then she made a decision for her own family

So even though Banned Books Week is over, let's remember that there are people who are constantly trying to censor everyone; and as writers, we have to speak up because this is not okay.

Margo L. Dill is a children's and YA author and an instructor for the WOW! Women On Writing classroom. Find out more at: 


  1. Margo--If parents are NOT familiar with a book their child is reading--or if they're curious/suspicious, they should (heaven forbid!) read the book. That way they can make an informed decision. However, just like turning off the TV will keep unwanted shows from parents' children, saying "no" to a book is okay--for their own kids. "The Kite Runner" is one of my favorite books. My son's college had it as a book that all freshmen read. It is brutal (rape, not homosexuality, which the people who want to ban the book would realize if. they. had. bothered. to. read. the book.) and is not appropriate for young children. But it has never touted itself as children's book.

    You are right. It is not okay. It is never okay to censor writers.

  2. I've read The Kite Runner. It would depend for me on my teenager and her sensitivity to such issues of whether or not I would encourage her to read it. But I'm not sure I would ever say: NO you can't read this to someone 15 or 16 and older. That book in particular is important because it gives a view of a culture very few of us in this country understand. But regardless, I agree parents should try to read all books their kids do, but I also understand that parents are busy and if they can find opinions from trusted friends and colleagues, then that works too.


We love to hear from readers! Please leave a comment. :)