First of all, how come no one told me Banned Books Week started on my birthday this year?! It's one of my favorite Weeks (with a capital W), but it snuck up on me this time around.
Every time someone tries to ban a book in any capacity, the book community rallies and speaks out in support of the book and the author - and that's an amazing thing.
But I feel - a lot of the time - the real damage has already been done. And the beautiful defense of these wonderful, misrepresented books and justified outrage against the major news network that carried the story is akin to the choir all preaching to each other simultaneously - making a lot of noise that no one outside the church hears.
It's one thing when someone publicly speaks out against a book because it contains certain subject matter, leaving room for people to make their own judgements about whether or not they want to read it (or let their children read it).
But what about the times when someone - someone who many people will listen to - completely misrepresents a book? Like when a certain Missouri "educator" tells parents that Speak encourages teens to go to parties, get drunk and have sex. Or when church leadership, in the ultimate display of irony, tries to ban Fahrenheit 451 because they claim it endorses destroying religious texts. Or when a conservative teacher tries to wipe out the incredible messages in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by only talking about the (very accurately-depicted) language and a TEENAGE BOY's internal monologue about masturbation.
The media love these people. There's nothing that sells papers/commercials faster than a scandal and a threat to your children. Thousands of people declaring how YA lit with heavier themes has saved their lives? That doesn't get people to "tune in after this message from our sponsors."
My point is: parents and other decision-makers, listen to these deluded people and will forever think these books are horrible because they will never hear the impassioned (and more accurate) defenses of these life-affirming books. For all the wonderful #yasaves and #gayinya and #speakloudly discussions, most of the people seeing those discussions already support the cause, already think book banners are full of it.
So my question is, how do we reach these people? And on the same scale the book banners do? How do we let the parents and other decision-makers - who may have not read a novel since graduating high school, skim only the first three pages of the newspaper, don't follow any #yasaves fans on twitter, and trust everything the nightly news tells them at face value - know that reading a so-called "dark" book will actually make you or your child a better person? How do we stop preaching to the choir, reach beyond the participation of the congregation, and get our message out to everybody else?
Also, just wanted to throw in a mention that I'm giving away six books on my blog this week, including some by our very own DJ, Leigh and Kelley York! EVEN MORE, my sister and I are giving away two books by Lisa McMann at the YA Rebels.