Where do I start?
Banned Books Week.
Just the fact that there is such a thing boggles my mind. Life is full of choices and in America we are blessed with freedom of choice. Even in schools (where choice can be limited by rules), if parents don’t want their child to read a certain book, it is my understanding that teachers will accommodate that by providing alternate reading materials.
That said... this week the banned book I’m looking at is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Let’s take a gander at two of the main reasons it has been banned (here is a detailed list ) The funny thing about this list is that you could practically read the entire book based on the excerpts that this person has pulled - all out of context. Anyway, back to the two main reasons...
Sexually explicit - pornographic
Okay. Now - what is the book really about?
It’s speculative fiction about a future where the U.S. Government has been overthrown by a fundamental Christian sect called the ‘Sons of Jacob.’ (Although, in the book, citizens are told that the President and all members of Congress were assassinated by Muslim terrorists. How interesting is that?!)
These ‘Sons of Jacob’ systematically remove any rights that women have, in the name of “protecting” them. Women, including those who were part of the ‘Sons of Jacob,’ soon discover that their freedoms are non-existent and they are relegated to whatever role the new society deems appropriate for them based on their ability to have children. Handmaids are just as in the Bible - slaves who are forced to bear children for men whose wives are barren. (Most people in the new Gilead are barren due to radiation and other chemical warfare.)
The purpose of Atwood’s cautionary tale is to wake people up to what is going on around them. To make people aware of how easy it is to give up rights in the face of fear and the reassurance that they will be “taken care of” and/or “it’s for your own good.”
The sexuality in this book is not meant to be titillating or pornographic (altho' there is pornography mentioned in the book.) It is used for procreation. And, for pleasure in the whorehouses to which the government turns a blind eye. There is no sex as an expression of love - except for the main character's attempt at a caring relationship and her remembrance of the loving relationship she had with her husband.
As far as the anti-Christian part of it... well, honestly, so much horrible stuff has been done in the name of religion (every religion, bar none) that I have no issue with people being reminded that that can, and still does, happen. And, when people try to force everyone to come to their way of thinking about a higher power (or not) “or else” - well, no. Just plain old NO.
Now - I'm not going to do a full-fledged book review. I guess I’m going to rant for a second... or more.
I wonder when so many people (i.e. book banners) in this country are going to quit being afraid? And, what is it that they’re afraid of? Ideas! Discussion! Different Points of View!
I think that fear comes because deep down inside, those who try to ban books are terrified of the ideas in those books. Perhaps their fears are not so much that children’s minds will be tainted by these “filthy” books - but that those same children might have some new thoughts, might not be content to live life exactly as their book-banning parents would wish them to. And, maybe even more so, those book banners are afraid that their own thoughts won’t be able to stand against new ideas. Maybe they really don’t have enough blind faith to withstand a little new light being cast on it.
I have no patience with small-minded people who think that forcing their ideals and morals on others is a good or right thing. It is a scourge that threatens our very freedoms. If we become complacent and allow others to "fight the good fight" - we may find ourselves like Atwood’s main character, Offred. A woman without her own identity - a slave to a totalitarian government that does things “for your own good” - and one who is ritualistically raped in the hopes that there will be children born to carry on the ideals of the system.
While we may not find ourselves in the actual position of physical rape, we can be ritualistically, and repeatedly, frightened, bullied, and inundated with falsehoods, half-truths and outright lies. If we stay quiet against those lies, beware.
Our future, the future of our children and their children may well be a banned book away.
End of rant.
Buy banned books. Read banned books. Don’t let anyone tell you what is right for you or your children - make those (informed, please!) decisions yourself.
Even if you don’t agree with ideas expressed in a book - defend to the death the author’s right to write them!