|On banned books lists |
for teaching witchcraft & sorcery
In my college lit classes I've been teaching stories from The Arabian Nights and pairing them with Bruno Bettelheim's groundbreaking essay "The Uses of Enchantment." He was a psychiatrist who worked with severely disturbed kids, and a firm believer that they need stories with dark as well as light elements in order to fully understand the struggle of human life in all of its permutations.
|Too brutal? Too honest?|
Or too valuable to ban!
|A banned book - Really?!|
As we’ve learned from ancient Greek myths to Shakespeare to modern day, The Truth Will Out in one way or another. I recently traveled to Russia and saw firsthand the damaging effect of repression and bans on free speech. The most profound example of this was when I visited The Nabokov House Museum in Saint Petersburg. Vladimir Nabokov is the author of Pale Fire, Pnin, and his most famous and controversial book, Lolita.
|Lolita by Nabokov|
What astounded me there, were cases containing pages of his novels, sent around in secret mails during the time the Soviet Union banned his books. His readers were so devoted they risked their very lives to mail ten or twenty pages at a time to each other in order to keep on reading his transformational stories.
Banned books teach us about love, bravery, the dangers of bullying and racism and so many other things. What would students learn if libraries contained only whitewashed mealy-mouthed porridge? Bettelheim, and many teachers and writers are strong believers in not sugarcoating reality, which is what we do when we only provide the most mild, sanitized fiction. Here are a couple of his quotes that speak directly to why we cannot afford to ban books: “What cannot be talked about cannot be put to rest. And if it is not, the wounds will fester from generation to generation,” and “The ability to read becomes devalued when what one has learned to read adds nothing of importance to one's life.”
Bring on the harsh, sexy, terrifying, eye opening, mind-blowing books that alter and elevate us.