Saturday, October 21, 2006

No Fear

Kathi Appelt shares her insight into how fear is shaping our society with regard to what books are being challenged. It is well worth reading the complete article for the many points she makes.

She balances the responsibility of parenting and protecting our children against the need for being honest and recognizing that sometimes fear drives us. She acknowledges the need to ensure that materials are age appropriate but challenges the idea that banning books will somehow protect children.

She is the author of Kissing Tennessee and Other Stories from the Stardust Dance In one story, an eighth-grader questions his attraction for the new boy in town. She purposely leaves the readers wondering whether the boy is gay. In a second story, she brings up all kinds of issues around a teen who is beaten by her fundamentalist father for wearing lipstick. She writes about real issues, stating,
As an author of books for children and young adults, I believe that it's my responsibility to give my young audience characters who look like they do, feel like they do and struggle with the same questions they struggle with.

She points out that we fear that children might become gay after reading about the young man's doubts or that we are afraid that after reading about the fundamentalist father, children will turn away from their parents' faith. Children could be influenced by books to turn to the dark arts, become promiscuous, or start displaying biogotted behaviours. She concludes that censorship reflects the fears of the times.
I'm tired of people in power using fear to control my rights, my body or whom I marry. And this includes my choices and my children's choices of what to read, whether its government documents that have been reclassified for "security reasons" or Huck Finn because it uses the "N-word." In this post Sept. 11 world, I believe that it's more important than ever to face our fears and turn our backs on the people who would use them to control and divide us. Fear is not a family value or an American trait. Control by fear is the antithesis of a democracy.

She calls on all of us to be honest. "Challenging a book is not an act of heroism. It's an act of fear. Call it by its true name."

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