This is Banned Books Week. I’m doing my part by writing a book that will probably be banned.
The way my novel is shaping up, it will have everyting a book needs to be banned: sex, violence, politics, religion, profanity (in three langauges, one of them invented), and characters who utter ethnic slurs (including some most Americans didn’t know existed). I can already think of several religious and political organizations and at least five countries that will want to ban it. Not bad for a former Little League president.
I don’t believe any writer sets out to write a banned book. (OK, I can think of a few who would.) We want to write books that sell, which is hard to do when angry mobs want to burn them. We also want people to like our books. We devote so much time to write them, it’s hard to see our creations being denounced as evil. It’s especially hard when they’re condemned by people who haven’t read them and don’t understand them.
But as much as we want to have people buy and enjoy our books, it’s more important for us to write about what matters. We need to describe what we see is true, and what we believe in passionately.
When anyone has an opinion, there will be someone who disagrees. When anyone believes in something, there is someone who says it’s false. When anyone speaks his or her mind, there is someone who will take offense. Keeping your opinions and beliefs to yourself won’t protect you. I’ve come across people who find my mere existence, especially my religion, offensive.
The only choice any of us have, whether we’re writers or not, is to speak and live our truth. We can’t hide who we are, what we think, and what is important to us. We can’t please everyone, and there are people who aren’t worth pleasing. If it means that people reject us — or are trying to pull our book from their local library — so be it.
Ultimately, freedom isn’t just about writing what you want. It’s the freedom to be you. It’s the freedom to live your life as you choose. That’s why when people try to suppress what you write, they are really trying to control who you are. That is the real danger in banning books.