Books Are Not the Threat

This past week was Banned Books Week and this year close to a thousand titles have now been banned or challenged in libraries and bookstores across America. Why? Because of conservative, right-wing, neo-Nazi white Nationalism.

I’ve been thinking back to my high school years (I graduated thirty years ago this year) and back then when books were banned or challenged it was always for language and sex. That’s still the same bullshit excuses given today but the books being targeted today are written by and about people of color and by and about queer and non-binary people. To me, if people are racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic assholes, they need to find the tits or the balls to come right out and say so. And if reading about an experience that doesn’t mirror yours in any way, shape, or form makes you ‘uncomfortable’, get over yourself.

Books are not the threat.

Thirty years ago, queer kids were deep in the closet. It wasn’t just because of the young Republican conservative-asshole bully crowd but from adults, school administrators especially. In my senior year I learned through various sources that there were at least a dozen kids who were HIV-positive and hiding that from school administrators because they felt the administrators would have found a way to run them out of school and out of town. And these young HIV-positive students were right in feeling that way because we’d all seen Ryan White and other young people run out of schools and towns out of fear, ignorance, and hatred about HIV-positive and people with AIDS. And we also remember seeing young gay men dying alone and being treated with such hatred simply because of a virus that was allowed to run rampant before anything was done about it.

Thirty years ago, I used to hear from asshole-adults that if I, or other white students listened to rap music or read books about black history that ‘we were trying to be black’ and black students heard that if they listened to rock and pop music or read too many books by white authors that ‘they were trying to be white’. These white-asshole adults would have probably shit bricks if they knew I listened to Ice-T’s band Body Count (they had a song called ‘Cop Killer’ that really made the shit hit the fan), NWA (‘Fuck tha Police’ anyone?), or read ‘The Autobiography of Malcom X’. And the word ‘transgender’ wasn’t in the lexicon back in my high school days so transgender kids were so hidden that even their closest friends may not have known what they were going through.

Books are not the threat.

I’m so glad there is so much literature out in the world today for young people to read. Books about people of color, LGBTQ+, and more. I’m so glad young people have the language to put their thoughts and feelings and experiences into. I’m so glad writers are telling their stores and sharing true history so we can learn from it. And anyone who says that young people today shouldn’t be exposed to things that might make them ‘uncomfortable’ or in all ridiculousness make them queer, need to shut the fuck up now. Today’s kids are so much more resilient and stronger than any previous generation simply because of the threats they have lived under since they first walked into a school. Young people today unlike my generation don’t fear nuclear war- they fear a gunman walking into their school and murdering them. They fear a world that will be slowly destroyed by environmental degradation that will deprive them of a lifetime and a future for their children.

Books are not the threat.

I never had kids but if I did I would have read the books they were reading alongside them because if they wanted to talk to me about they read, I would have wanted to be able to talk from knowledge of the book itself. I NEVER would have restricted my child’s reading, or what they could talk to me about. And most of all, I would have accepted them for the person they were because they would know themselves better than I ever would. And yes, I would have loved and accepted my children if they were queer or transgender. So it breaks my heart to know there are children living in fear of being kicked out of their homes simply for being queer or transgender. And it makes me want to rage at parents who would reject and hate their child simply for being who they are. For these children, books may be their only way to learn about themselves and put their thoughts and feelings into words. So to deny them these books is to hurt them so deeply and create wounds that will never heal.

Books are not the threat.

If reading about history or experiences that are painful and horrible makes you ‘uncomfortable’ I will say this to you: your ‘discomfort’ means nothing in the face of other’s suffering. And NO ONE is accusing you of perpetuating past suffering or being a part of it or any bullshit-argument like that. If you think you’re that special, you’re not. And I’m not either. In the grand scheme of the Universe, we’re just specks of dust coming together then turning to dust floating through the Universe over and over again. Our time here is very brief but we need to make the most of it. And you don’t fuck things up by digging in and not learning how to do better and repeat history that doesn’t need to be repeated. Most of all, books about painful chapters in human history aren’t a threat to you at all.

I’ve been asking myself why I’m writing like I do because I know I can’t change minds past a certain point, and I certainly can’t pull someone’s head out of their ass for them because no one on Earth can do that. I’m writing like this to add my voice to the conversations we need to have and are having as I write this. And also I write because I want to show that life itself is pretty messy and fucked up sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be a total fucked-up mess. We can do better and we can learn from the mistakes of the past. Books are not the threat.

Author: Michele

Writer by day, Uber driver by night. Single mom to two fur-kids (a dog and a cat).

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