Last day to comment to be in the running for free books! One of which you can spot somewhere in this page by superfriend Liz Baillie, whose comic Freewheel is a really fun story about magical hobos.

Our interviewee from Monday, Pat Scales, was part of a webinar with Judy Blume and some other publishing/library industry people talking about Banned Book Week. If you need something to listen to for an hour, have a listen!

The Macmillan website for kids books asked me to write a little thing about my thoughts about banned books & censorship & all that, and it seems like a good thing to end on. So, here’s a little bit about my very liberal upbringing (x-posted to MacKids):

When I was about to turn sixteen, in 1996, I was a literary and artsy kid, and I got into poetry. I read a few of Jack Kerouac’s poems, which I liked, and consequently asked for some of his books for Christmas, having heard much of the hype about On the Road but for some reason no access to a copy in my town. But I was (almost) sixteen, dammit, it was time for me to read this milestone of literature! It was a right of passage for an aspiring writer, a merit badge of an artistic calling.

My parents were unfailingly supportive in letting me read whatever I wanted, provided it was either literary or appropriate for my age. My mom was a little conflicted about getting On the Road though, she thought it was a little racy and there were drugs in it somewhere. But when my mom talked to one of her coworkers about it, the lady was aghast. She was told, “I would never let my daughter read that!” The tone of her friend’s voice sealed the deal- like the rest of my family, my mom has never liked being told what to do. She got me On The Road, and a couple of other Kerouac books.

I read On the Road last, after the Dharma Bums & Visions of Girard, thinking I would save the best for last. I was really excited to learn about beatniks and the fifties and countercultural happenings, and a little about the man himself who was so emblematic a writer. I read those first two books all the way through, but I think I never got more than 50 pages into On The Road. As a sixteen year old girl, I was really skeezed out by how much this old dude wanted to sleep with sixteen year old girls. He didn’t really seem like much of a catch, and I suspected this whole writing on drugs thing was maybe not the wisest choice for crafting the great American novel. And anyway, if you were going to go on a road trip with Neal Cassidy, the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test bus seemed like a way more egalitarian road trip where the ladies involved seemed more like actual people and less like props or scenery. And Ken Kesey’s books were at least good enough to be made into actually good movies too, which was maybe what I really wanted to do when I grew up.

My mom gave me the chance to find this out for myself, instead of dictating what I could and couldn’t read, even when she didn’t completely agree with what I was reading. But she trusted that I was able to handle it, and told me what she didn’t like and why, and we discussed the book on a level that showed me she respected my thoughts. Given the far less civilized conversations we had about washing dishes, it kind of felt like a miracle at the time.

Whenever I read about someone trying to ban a book in a school or library, it usually seems like they are trying to avoid a conversation with their kids that they ought to be having. Whether it’s reminders of unpleasantness in the world, or just a different point of view, it’s condescending to think that kids can’t handle tough ideas. Americus came out of this frustration with adults who don’t seem to believe their kids are ready for the real world, when often the adults are oblivious to how the real world has already introduced itself into kids’ lives.