Banned Books Week: the week trade publishers who have already made a butt-load off a certain book try to make a little more by pretending to be oppressed.
Call me cynical.
What is this week? It’s the week we talk about books that regularly get banned from schools, libraries, and even entire towns. Texts such as that obscure tome Harry Potter, or, what’s it called again, Anne Frank, Dairy of a Girl. Good books. Important books. Books that you’ve probably read, because, uh, wait, I thought they were banned?
Ah, we found the catch. See, Banned Book Week is one of those events that sounds really good and important, until you realize, actually, there isn’t much there.
For people to care that a book is banned, a lot of people have to have already read it when the “take it away” movement gets started. Not only that, for it to make the news this particular week, the book has to be widely-enough spread, sold, and circulated that banning it means something. This means that banned books are famous books. Banned books are books with a lot of dollars behind them, and dollars mean that book isn’t going anywhere. Publishers are companies, and they fight to make money.
I mean, they fight to preserve those important stories.
Yeah, right, who am I kidding here? There’s a much easier way of getting rid of a book, far easier than banning it.
It’s called: “Don’t publish it at all.”
Don’t publish the book, or if you do, make sure only a couple copies go out to stores, with an ugly cover. When they don’t immediately sell, pull them from the shelves and pulp them, then hold on to the copyrights forever. And if you offer an ebook, be sure to jack up the price to far more than the ebook is worth, to ensure no one will ever, ever buy it, let alone enough people for the book to merit being banned.
And the best part is? No one will ever know.
In this day and age, I’m not interested in fussing about banned books in the US. We have internet. Your local book shop won’t carry something? Buy it from Amazon. Borrow your friend’s copy. Get it from Kobo and keep it on your ereader. This is like me getting really angry because Walmart doesn’t carry my size of shirt. The answer is not to yell at Walmart, it’s to go to a different store.
Yes, I get that there’s an ideological war against censorship going on, the hue and cry condemning “for the children.” I have no problem with that. But if you think the children whose parents are doing the banning can’t find a way to get their hands on what’s being banned, you’re kidding yourself. They can and they will, because that book has a spotlight on it. That book has been seen.
What I have a problem with is children having all their literature decided for them by publishers in New York.
In fact, I don’t think anyone should have their literature solely decided by multi-million dollar corporations, because that’s a pretty good way to end up going round and round in the same fishbowl. Why doesn’t the scenery change? Because you’re in a bowl. I want to swim in the ocean, not where publishers park me.
Those companies bring us plenty of books every year, and many of them might be good, but I’ve stopped reading them because they’ve forgotten the very thing Banned Books Week is supposed to stand for: that making books is about telling stories that we haven’t already heard, not just creating one mega-book that will sell five million copies. If the mega book doesn’t appeal? Too bad, so sad. New York publishers have decided their market is people who read once or twice a year, and when that’s how much you read, everything is fresh. Avid readers who use books as an exploration tool are no longer their target demographic.
That’s fine by me. I’ve decided my target producer makes books that come out in real time, not three years after they are written. I also want my series to update more than once a year, and I want my authors to have a say in how their books are presented. Small e-presses, or, more likely, indie is where my books lie.
But far more than my boredom with New York’s offerings are on the line. The books that get banned are so often censored because of the way they present race and sexuality–the sort of books that New York has been called out again and again for publishing only tokens of. The entire #ownvoices movement is founded on the fact that New York is made of white, upper-class people, and they like to publish white, upper-class books. Diversity is saved for “issue” books. If I want to read books that just happen to have a different point of view–even a different white point of view–I need to look elsewhere.
The world needs to look elsewhere.
Maybe banned books are such a problem because when your tokens of diversity are so limited, losing even one is a huge blow. So the solution isn’t saying “unban this book!” The solution is to make more books like it, until it’s impossible to ban them all, and thereby circumvent gatekeepers altogether.
This week celebrates banned trade-published books about topics so limited by the very companies who claim to be protesting censorship, books which it turns out we read a great deal of here in the good old U S of A. And meanwhile, I’d like an invisible book week. A week where we pick up novels that we’ve never heard of in our lives, whom three or four people have ever read, and see what points of view live outside of that island called Manhattan.
When we’ve finished, we’ll donate our books to our local libraries. They’ll add them to their charity rummage sale to make way for more books from New York.
I’m S. Hunter Nisbet, writer of post-apocalyptic dystopian novels of the dark and gritty type. I write about white generationally-poor Appalachians dealing with the sort of everyday monsters our society is so good at producing. There are no mystical wise people or hillybilly yuks, because eff that BS. I do not write issue books about coal mining, either. I know, what else in Appalachia is there to talk about? Oh, wait.
My local library only stocks trade-published books, so instead of What Boys Are Made Of being free to read there in paper form, I’ve made it free to read and own in ebook form. Click the picture below to get it on Amazon, or the following links to grab it from Kobo, B&N, or iBooks, whichever you prefer.
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Thanks for reading, and see you next time!