Freedom to Read… can one be against censorship when one participates?

Freedom to Read week is coming to Canada within the month, and I find myself in a bit of an ethical pickle.

For the first time in my entire “reading” career, I have censored a book.  I have become one of those people who looks at a book, looks at the demographic of the people who will possibly read it, and without any guilt said, “Nope, this one isn’t hitting the shelves.”

Now, many of you may be shaking your heads and tutting in self-righteous indignation (as I would have a year ago) and saying to your fellow bookies, “Another one trying to take away creativity from young minds.”  Or whatever it is that I’m taking away from them.  Knowledge, freedom, choice, diversity, etc.

But hear me out.

The day of my slip from righteous advocate of tossing censorship began like any other work day.  I arrived in our small library to see a new box from Amazon waiting to be opened and the treasures inside to be given to the masses of young students.

Looking through the books, I excitedly pulled out a book I had ordered after hearing rave reviews from every website I looked at.

Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire

I LOVED this book.  It was… amazing.  It painted a very real picture of what young women from poor demographics struggle with.  While filled with lots of pain and degradation, it was also filled with hope and promise.  I can see why the movie won the Sundance Award if it is even a tiny bit true to the story ( I have yet to see the movie).

But while I was in the midst of my “OMG, I love this book” self-dialogue, I began to doubt if 12-15 year old boys could honestly understand or even handle the scenes that are within this book.  I mean, I felt sick after reading parts of it!  I was left feeling disgusted with men and people in general.  I was simply overwhelmed at all the emotions that this book evoked.  For a book that has only 150 pages, it took me 4 days to read!!  I honestly felt that the younger students wouldn’t be able to deal with this book.

So with all of this going on inside my head, I did the only thing I could think to do.  I recommended that it be removed from circulating collection and placed in the workroom.  Which is where it now sits.

So here is my question to myself.  After fighting against censorship and speaking out about Freedom to choose what we want to read, know, discover… and after willingly deciding to not put a controversial book out on shelves where young readers could possibly pick it up… how do I reconcile the two different perspectives?  And is this what the real issue is in relation to censorship.  Maybe those people who have chosen to censor controversial books in the past were asking themselves the same question.

All I know is that this year for Freedom to Read week, I’m going to do a display on one censored book in particular… the one I censored.



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