Banned Books Week, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of the right to read, has come to a close. What a party it was!

A book party is always a good idea: stirring up imaginations, starting conversations, providing inspiration. Shining a spotlight on attempts at censorship – that’s just extra fabulous.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

Recently, despite calling ourselves “the land of the free” and having that fantastic First Amendment on record, our nation has seen a really alarming uptick in the number of books folks would like to see disappear. Even here in Maine, we have seen the challenges begin.

The attempts have been loud, rude and coordinated. One look at the top 10 list from this year, and the year before, and the year before that, will show you what you might have already guessed: the books people want to be gone tend to talk about racial injustice and LGBTQ+ people.

Oddly – and this really does seem so strange to me – the only books on the topics being challenged are the ones that suggest injustice is bad, and that it might be lovely to have a world in which people are free to be who they are with equality and dignity. The hate rants don’t show up anywhere on the “dangerous ideas” list. Strange.

I’ve heard the “concerns”: that books that show inclusion will make the children be something else. Honestly, I’m never entirely sure what to do with that.

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As has already been stated more eloquently in many a meme: kids who read Nancy Drew rarely go snooping about in abandoned mines looking for clues to a lost will, kids who read about the Titanic (endlessly) don’t go out on the ocean to reenact the sinking, and kids who read about a gay or transgendered kid and their experiences will not become that themselves.

Books might grant us perspective and empathy for a fellow human being, but they don’t transform us into something we are not.

I, personally, have a deep fondness for Banned Books Week. When I was a youngster, as soon as the list of most challenged books came out, a stack of those very same books would appear in my room, courtesy of my fabulous older sisters. My parents, both ordained ministers who believed to their marrow in the sanctity of free speech and free ideas, nodded their approval.

I’ll level with you, I didn’t love them all. One book in particular, “I Am the Cheese” by Robert Cormier, I found just so, so sad. But I always knew that I had the choice to read it or not. I had the amazing, thrilling, luxurious choice to read what I wanted to read. If I found a book that was not my cup of tea I could put it down and walk away. But my world was not censored.

Well, OK, hang on. This part gets a little nuanced, but I’m going to wade in these waters anyway. There were a few books my family suggested I wait a bit to read. Some, they explained to me, were a little too scary, or violent, or mature for where I was. That makes sense to me, in much the same way that I wasn’t offered chili peppers until I was older.

The important part there, though, is that it was my family making choices for me. Not the neighbor’s mom making choices about me. Or for the neighborhood.

We, all of us, care about our kids. As we strive to raise the next generation, I hope we take the point from history that the folks backing censorship and lighting the piles of books aflame are never, ever the good guys. If you are worried about a book, talk about it. Get a genuine conversation about it rolling. Don’t try to ban it. Let freedom ring.

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