This week is Banned Books Week. On this blog I have spoken against any attempts at censorship of manga. I strongly believe in the freedom of making any book available to be read, and that it should be responsibility of the individual, and in the case of children, the parents, to decide if the book is appropriate. What that means basically is that if you don’t like a book in the library, then don’t read it. If you don’t want your child to read a book at the library, don’t let them check it out. What you DON’T get to do is decide that a book can not be made available for me or my child read because YOU have objections to its subject matter.

Over the past year, two manga titles were challenged in public school libraries, because some parent thought the material in it was “inappropriate” for children. What they really meant was that they didn’t like it and didn’t want their children reading it. Therefore,if their children couldn’t read it, then no other child could read it either. They made the challenges “for the children.” You know, that wonderful phrase politicians and other leaders like to pull out when there’s something they don’t like and want to get control of or get rid of, so they hid behind the shield of “the children” so no one can object without sounding like they are against children. The truth is THEY don’t want to be branded as censors, since censorship is considered bad as well.

The first challenge was to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. The parent of a 9-year-old claimed it “depicts nudity, sexual contact between children, and sexual innuendo among adults and children.” The fact that this is what the parent said proves they didn’t bother to actually read the volume and only looked at the most damning of pictures. What Dragon Ball really depicts is a boy living in the wild, and not worried about covering himself for some fish, an older girl acting like a sister and bathing said boy, boy, having never met a girl wondering what makes them different, and a perverted hermit getting more than either he or the girl thought. In an adult mindset, the last one could be construed badly, but this title wasn’t written for an adult, and it wasn’t meant in the context that some people will put it in. There are always going to be people who are offended by things, and if we let them rule the world, there would be no humor at all. I think Dragon Ball is perfectly appropriate for a tween boy or girl. Really, what am I supposed to be saving my child from if I keep them from reading it? What is in this book that isn’t already talked about, and laughed at, by kids in schools all over the country?

The other book challenged was Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. The parent in this case stated “killing is just not something we should put out there for our kids to read in this way.” Yeah, because giving kids a title that makes them think about morality and the consequences of their decisions is a bad thing. While the actual merits of Death Note as a series may be up for debate (and possibly a good choice for a Movable Manga Feast), the kinds of dialog that the subject inspires isn’t. It asks some serious questions about who gets to decide who lives and who dies, and the morality that goes with such decisions. It can lead to debates over the death penalty, which continues to be a controversial topic. There is nothing wrong with asking teens to start thinking about these things, as in only a few years, they will be asked to start voting and sitting on juries where they may have to make such a decision.

While manga hasn’t been targeted much lately, looking at the list of books that have been challenged and many removed from libraries over the last year is depressing, and doesn’t speak well for our supposed tolerate society. while the list contains numerous challenges due to the standard sexual innuendo/content and language, it also contains books challenged due to Occult themes and homosexuality. so, someone explain to me why these two topic are so harmful to children? Not every was or is a christian, so why is it so offensive for children to know that there were and are other religions in the world? Are our children so impressionable that after reading “The Egypt Game” we should fear that they will start worshipping Osiris? How is And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins who adopt an orphaned baby, which is based on true event, going to destroy family life in America? Honestly?? You really think kids need to be protected from penguins?

It’s not these kinds of books that are leading to the “ruin of the moral fiber of the youth of this country”, it’s the people that object to having rival ideas heard. Children are not delicate little tea cups that need to be protected from the horrors of the world. They are a lot stronger and a lot smarter than many people and parents want to give them credit for. Books that bring up sex, drugs, “alternate family units” aren’t going lead children down the path of ruin. Denying that these things exist or are problems that our kids can and sometimes do face in the lives will. So, the next time you think you need to challenge a book “to save the children”, do me and the world a favor, and DON’T!

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3 Comments for this entry

  • Love this post! You raise a good point that children don’t always need protection (adults just think they do) and that sometimes we need to expose them to bad things at an appropriate age to allow them to form their own opinions.

    Besides, reading about a myriad of differing opinions is only going to make them more open-minded in the future. Is that such a bad idea?

  • Apparently a lot of parents/busy bodies think it is. When you look at the titles being challenged, a lot of them go against the right-wing christian dogma, so it has to be removed so as to keep children from thinking and realizing there is more to life than those narrow-minded beliefs.

  • Charles says:

    I think a major root of the conflict involving banned books these days is the gap between parents and children. More than ever, youth these days are questioning their faith, and while many parents don’t actively practice a religion, those that do are often the type that may be involved in such practices as trying to get books banned. The books represent the loss of control the parents are having within their own household – they believe they can change their children by changing the culture. Media like manga is an easy and obvious target for parents.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think most of these parents realize that instilling a faith that is supposed to be about loving others starts in a home where the parents demonstrate this love. Maybe the worst thing that American Christiandom has done is become inextricably connected to a very conservative agenda – politics can’t help but be dirty, and no matter the similarities and some ideals, many others have nothing to do with faith and sometimes run quite counter. This is a hypocrisy that children will detect, especially as they become teenagers and enter that “jaded” stage.

    I want my children to embrace my faith. But it’s obvious to me that my energy is better spent teaching and showing how a loving Christian should live. I don’t want them reading some titles (and obviously not at certain ages), but I can’t be with them all the time. My hope is that they embrace Christianity for themselves and have the character to live by what they believe in.

    Thanks for the interesting post! It made me pause and think a lot…and I don’t usually like to think. :P

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