Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Because Forbidden Fruits Taste Much Sweeter...

... Read A Banned Book!

All over the blogosphere and in libraries and literary circles this week, writers and readers are celebrating Banned Book Week. Now, my parents were pretty liberal about what we read when I was growing up-- they were just glad we were reading. And I learned more accurate information from books about life, sex, and relationships than I ever learned at junior high slumber parties or overheard in the locker room. No one ever told me not to read Flowers in the Attic, or The World According to Garp, or A Clockwork Orange. Hell, I'd seen the movie versions by then, all of which struck me after the fact as far more graphic than the books. Thanks, Stanley Kubric. You're a right merzky droog. Real horrorshow.

I've read quite a number of banned books. And here I am before you, as well adjusted as any young writer. I don't have sex with my siblings, or beat up old or homeless people, and I've never given someone oral sex in a car without first making sure we weren't going to be rear ended. ;) See, you can learn a lot from banned books.

I even had to read more than my fair share of banned books in juinor high and high school, since my teachers were pretty liberal, as well. Lucky me. Maybe I'm just fickle that way, but being told that Of Mice and Men had been banned in other schools made me want to read it that much more. It didn't necessarily make me enjoy or appreciate the subtle symbolism of Steinbeck, but it exposed me to some great writers I probably wouldn't have bothered with on my own. And I'd rather be forced to suffer through A Catcher in the Rye fifty times than be told I can't read it.

Even so, I could usually spot the reasons these books had been banned. But I didn't exactly understand it (well, not until I read Little Black Sambo, or Tintin in the Congo). To me, Harper Lee's use of incest and the N-word in To Kill a Mockingbird contributed to the realism, and the sympathy the reader feels for the characters, not to mention motivation... And this was before I was thinking like a writer.

I know how lucky I was to have been blessed with such a liberal education and upbringing, which has had a profound effect on me as a writer. Not only where craft is concerned, but about having the courage to stick to my convictions-- even if I know my writing might be challenged. This has been one of the most emotionally difficult parts of being a writer: including my soul, my core beliefs in my work and really meaning it. Many of my decisions as a writer derive from what I learned from banned books, who have been my good friends over the years.

In the Night Kitchen (my first banned book!)
Huck Finn
Gulliver's Travels
The Lorax
A Wrinkle in Time
Forever, Deenie
A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Cider House Rules
The Handmaid's Tale
The Color Purple
The Awakening
Go Ask Alice

More recently banned books I've read that I'd recommend include:

I was a Teenage Fairy
Heather Has Two Mommies

And on my must read list:

The Bermudez Triangle
Looking for Alaska
Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When did you first understand the concept of banned books? Have any favorites?


Tess said...

I had to come over and say, "Check you out, using your last name and all." I remember your post from when you were considering it - I guess you decided to make the leap.

It's a good thing. I'm assuming you are signed up for statcounter ( - their free version). You'll be surprised at how many will google your name and it will show up under the keyword search function on that site. Especially as you start getting more into queries/submissions.

:D :D :D

Tere Kirkland said...

Hey, Tess, thanks for the info on statcounter. Cool. Yes, I decided to go for it, but I didn't want to make a big deal about it. And I'm keeping my old icon!

Abby said...

I noticed your name, too! Very cool! No picture? Um, people who use something other than their photo for their profile shouldn't be allowed to use blogger. ;) (I'm taking over for Miss H.H. Writerlady today. She was busy and asked me to fill in.)

And statcounter is highly addictive. You have been warned. :)

On the subject of your blog post:

I had a very sheltered upbringing, very conservative. But my mom trusted me to make good decisions, so she didn't have a clue what I was reading. ;) She would've died if she knew of some of the garbage I read. And a lot of it was garbage.

On the banned list, I think TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is my favorite. I just finished reading it again a few months ago.

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, Abby, I didn't want to confuse anyone by changing my picture, too, but if H.H. Writerlady says it should be done... ;) I'm terribly un-photogenic when I'm posing for photos, but some of the best pictures of me have been taken when I wasn't paying attention. Some of the worst ones, too, now that I think of it!

To Kill a Mockingbird really stands out for me, too, because of the Southern setting and Scout's narration. Great book.

Suzanne said...

If they are banned, I am compelled. So funny... this country. Doesn't anyone understand the allure of the taboo?

Ban it. I'll buy it. Should be a bumper sticker.


Karen Denise said...

I just picked up What I Saw and How I Lied from the library. I'll let you know how I like it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Banned books usually have the most important things to say. It's that knowledge and questing that freak some folks out. Me, I just want more. (making myself a follower--I like your blog)

Tere Kirkland said...

Thanks, Karen, I'm really looking forward to that one!

Tricia, I wholeheartedly agree. What would life be without that endless quest for knowledge? Hope to hear more from you soon!

Tere Kirkland said...

Suzanne, for some reason I thought I already responded to your comment, but what I meant to say was--

Right on! Start printing those bumper stickers! The allure of the taboo, indeed.