Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What bans a book?

No more than a couple of months ago, I finally got around to reading the 1951 classic The Catcher in the Rye. Like many, I'd heard about this novel for a long time. There was one thing though that truly gave it more appeal to me: the controversy. As most also know, the book by J.D. Sallinger has appeared on dozens and dozens of banned book lists across the country...and to this day is still known as one of the most challenged books in the history of literature. If not the most. I probably would have read it anyway at some point. However, it was all the commotion that brought it to me sooner. All to figure out the question of "why".

To that question, I'm still not entirely sure. I'll admit after finishing it from cover to cover it became slightly more obvious of why it's so challenged. There's more swearing in the novel than an episode of South Park. That I could get. A book banned from schools for that, why not? Also the appearance of prostitution, cigarettes, and alcohol may anger a parent or two. Again, that I could get, but why all the hype? Sure it has a curse word every page or two, but why fire a teacher for giving it to students? Why would it convince a reader to kill a member of The Beatles? That I'll never get. Basically, it wasn't so harsh...but it certainly wasn't nothing. It was enough to surprise me when I saw it in the "kids" section at Wall-Mart, but certainly not enough to be forbidden more than a devil-worshipping Bible. That brings me to another question, what exactly gets a book banned?

The answer: not much. If The Catcher in the Rye has done enough to be restricted for multiple years, imagine what an actually horrific book could do. But Sallinger's work isn't the only example of overreacting. I recall back in my school days being sent a list of books we couldn't read. This list was including but not limited to James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Little Red Riding Hood, the Harry Potter series, the Captain Underpants children's series, and others. Most of those I still don't nor ever will undertand why. Potter, of course, has been famously critized for its use of magic. Basically some religious people insist that any magic must come from Satan. Despite the fact the J.K. Rowling identifies herself as Christian. Some have even gone as far as to say that the books specifically mention the devil. I've read the series, and the only real reference to religion is Christmas...and even that's occasionally said to not be religious anymore. It should also be noted that Christmas is celebrated by the main characters too.

The Captain Underpants books, mainly for elementary school kids, are also a good example. They're banned on the grounds that they teach disrespecting authority and anti-school messages. Although really, what novel for a ten year-old is going to be about loving teachers and school anyway? Sure kids imitate what they watch sometimes (or in this case, read), but maybe that's the parents' responsibility and not the author. If you don't want your kids reading books about principals in underwear or teenage wizards, don't let them. Making it a county-wide rule is not neccessary.

So what bans a novel? Swearing is one thing. Other things are mostly just suggestions of any action kids shouldn't do. Also messages of Jesus and demons people might try to pull out of it. The concept of banned books is actually ironic. You'd really think that schools would try to encourage kids to read, rather than put bans on what they can't.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Introverts: A Forced Enigma

It's almost first nature to assume that different means bad, or in some cases that new is negative and unusual is unfavorable. We often hear about this regarding groups such as homosexuals, minorities, and sometimes even single parents. One that most do not realize, however, is introverts. Dictionary.com defines introversion as "the state of being concerned primarily with one's own thoughts and feelings rather than with the external environment ". All in all, an introvert is a quite person. Often shy, and prefers to keep to themselves. This is the opposite of an extrovert, who will talk and talk until they have to blurt out anything to break the silence...even if it's declaring what their favorite color is. I'm sure we all know that quiet guy. The kid who never acts up or never talks in class, or the teenager who would rather stay at home with a good book instead of a panty raid. I'll also bet we've all heard jokes about this person being a serial killer or rapist. How do I know this? Well, sometimes I'm that guy. In fact, most of the time I am. Of all the things people learn about me, this is what they nitpick at the most.

Like I brought up before, there's the serial killer joke. This brings me back to my school days. While more than one person has accused me of that, there's one more that's really caught my interest: intelligence. The words "mentally challenged" have been tossed around, as well as "retarded". Now I'm not Einstein, but I like to think I know my way through a textbook. To have everything I say ignored, and be judged for the fact I don't shout random things when I enter a room...that gets a little more frustrating than you might think. Even a teacher, who was known for never shutting up, went on a rant about me of all people to the class. The man went as far as saying that if it weren't for knowing me better, he'd think I had something wrong with me.. He also celebrated a little that he finally got me to say a sentence. Kids would laugh at me from the other side of the room, assuming I had only air in my head. Little did they know that during their giggles I was writing a two hundred page fiction. Life's ironic.

Then there's how it affects the outside world. Between that and school, I've been given the labels "unmotivated", "secretive", "creepy", "dumb", "lazy", "weak", "untrustworthy", "perverted", "suicidal", and still more...all because I don't talk much. It's amazing how one tiny thing can conjure so many accusations. It's also amazing how not tiny this thing seems to others. Also how much they'll defend these accusations to the death. So when you do encounter another one of us, I beg of you. For the sake of all introverts around, think of what you've just read. Maybe just think of me. I'm an educated, mature, aspiring writer who wants nothing more than to get a job and make his mother and girlfriend happy, with a soft spot for dogs. Despite this, society classifies me under one of the most misunderstood groups there are. Not for my skin color, religion, opinions, even physical appearance, or even athletic ability am I judged for as much as my introversion. Still, I'm not the only one. If you're an introvert reading this: neither are you.