Freedom to read, that is. This is Freedom To Read Week, and that's a very serious subject. (Does this only exist in Canada? If so, I'm shocked!)
I'm actually quite annoyed by the way people use books like Harry Potter as examples to catch media attention. Yes, it's ridiculous that some people have tried to have the books taken out of school libraries because they promote witchcraft and such, but such an example undervalues the real issue -- attempts, often successful, to suppress ideas that challenge the norm or the powers that be.
You can read a list of the most commonly challenged and banned books in the US here.
I'm not going to go on at length about that, but I'd be interested in your opinion of the above. Also, are there are ridiculous or serious book restrictions going on in your area that might not be widely known? Do you think some books should be banned, or severely restricted?
You can look at the Canadian Freedom To Read website here.
Here's a quote from there. "Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Books are removed from the shelves in Canadian libraries, schools and bookstores every day. Free speech on the Internet is under attack. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read."
I don't want to underplay at all the seriousness of true book banning, and especially the powerful challenges faced by people in more difficult countries, but the last bit made me think.
"...the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read."
We don't only restrict that right by taking books off shelves or stopping them at the border. We can do so in other ways, and it happens to romance novels all the time. Expressed disapproval or ridicule is an attempt to stop people from reading what they choose to read. This disapproval is even sometimes dished out by bookstore clerks as they scan the books at the cash register! Some bookstores have section for mystery, science fiction and fantasy, but refuse to stock "those kinds of books." That's a very overt attempt to limit choice. Many literary events never invite romance authors. Some don't invite any genre authors. I was reliably told of one small literary event that decided to invite some romance writers. Some of the other authors threatened to pull out if that was done.
All the above people probably take Freedom To Read week seriously, as they should. Isn't it time for them to embrace the idea completely, and make it Freedom To Read, Even The Books I Don't Approve Of, week?
Unfortunately, all this disapproval makes some romance readers secretive about their choice, or at least apologetic. I was working in the romance section at a big charity book sale last weekend and some customers there made deprecating remarks, or apologized for their choice. "I know it's trash, but..." "I shouldn't be reading this, but..."
So, as a romance reader, do you ever experience disapproval or worse? How do you handle it? Are you hesitant to read a romance novel in some places? What do you say if someone insults your choice of reading?
I'll confess, when I came across this book at the book fair last year I laughed. I sneered. I poked fun at it. Okay, I still can't take it seriously! Especially when I found a typo in a casual flip through the 150 pages of large print. At the end of a brief sex scene where they achieved "the soft of fulfillment" whatever that is, I read "When I opened my ewes..." Baaaa!
So we all do it, don't we? But, I hope if I saw someone reading this book (published in 1965, so unlikely) I would hide my opinion and say nothing. If someone asked my opinion of the book, however, I'd give it.
I think that's an important distinction. I'm entitled to comment on and criticize individual books, and if I'm rude enough, to do so to people reading them. I'm not entitled to abuse people for reading a type of book. I also think it's wrong for a genre to be barred from a bookstore or the authors of a genre to be seen as lesser than other authors.
What say you?
It's just over a month to the publication of The Secret Wedding, and I've put up the beginning on my web site. If you like a sneak peek, check it out here.