November 23, 2016

Who Says You Can't Read That Book?

As per the norm, we have a fresh post up at I Are Writer!, which in this particular case starts a series of posts (hopefully) exploring my current work-in-progress The Friendship Has Begun.

With that out of the way, let's delve into the topic of choice: books (c'mon, the post title was a dead giveaway, right?).

Unlike last week's post, in which we had some research material to play with, today's post was a spur of the moment kind of deal. How? Well, younger child Jenelle was reading out loud yesterday evening that ye often banned olden book for American Lit, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I had wandered back upstairs to see what all the excessive verbiage was all about, and younger child had told me what she was reading.

I said, "Really? You're reading a book that uses colorful language, including the word that rhymes with diggers? I'm impressed."

For those of you doing a drive-by reading of this post, do not get your panties in a bunch.While I did use the word as it pertains to the content of the book while talking to youngest child, I did not use it here. I used a substitute.

She said, "Yeah. The town of Manchester (sic) banned the book."

Now, the main reason why I was impressed {and I'm not impressed by a lot of things our local public school system does}, was the fact that they were letting the kids read Samuel Clemons (aka Mark Twain) in general and this book in particular. While he is an interesting writer, most people are small minded enough not to get the point of how he writes. And for the sake of brevity, I will not even remotely go there.

Anyways, it got me to thinking about the overreaction that some people have to the written word these days. People, it seems, have a big problem dealing with the mores and values of yesterday. Shoot, some people have a problem not only with the mores and values of today, but with the written word of today.

As some you know, I've experienced firsthand that funky issue called censorship. Back in 2013, when the original version of The Inner Sibling came out:

Books By G.B. Miller
Some people gave me static, mostly over the jacket blurb, but some gave me static over the cover:

Which in turn led to complaints being made and me being forced to cut short a book signing.
Now, it took me a very long time to get over being angry about the narrowness of mind that some people had over my writing. I still haven't recovered from the reputation hit at work because of the false claim that I wrote porn.

It still hasn't stopped me from writing what I want to write. However, it has forced me to label my work on Amazon & Smashwords as adult. Having said that, I would like to offer a perspective that is probably seldom seem amongst those with children as it applies to reading controversial books.

Let them.

I have no problem with my youngest reading books like Huckleberry Finn, high end young adult books, or regular adult books. My daughter is very mature for her age, and like myself at her age (and younger), I have no qualms in letting her decide for herself on what kind of book she wants to read. If I know the book, I'll offer an opinion, but ultimately, I'll leave the decision up to her. I already know if she is disappointed in how a story is unfolding, the books goes buh-bye.

If I sound like a permissive parent, I'm not. I've learned to pick and choose my battles over the years, and honestly, picking a fight over a book is just plain stupid. Which is why I find it so laughable about some of the battles today's parents have over books. I know that if people took the time to read the whole story as opposed to taking a select word or two, or even a theme out of context (remember this book?), life would be much simpler and elected officials would be less cowardly.

okay, you can stop laughing at that last sentence fragment.

In any event, if you got childrens or grandchildrens below the age of 16 and they're interested in reading a certain book that people get their panties in a bunch over, talk to them sensibly about it, and if you feel their mature enough to make a decision about it, let them. If not, sensibly explain your decision and work out a compromise about it.

I know that if you treat your children sensibly, you'll always arrive at sensible conclusion.

Besides, I would rather pick a fight with my daughter over the clothes she wears or her needing an attitude adjustment than over a book that I might raise an eyebrow to.

(c) 2016 BOOKS BY G.B. MILLER. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Amen, brother! I am anti-censorship, as you know. Funny, I remember watching a documentary in high school where they were interviewing kids who had been assigned The Catcher in the Rye when it came out. Then one day they collected all of the copies and said they were banned...and the guy they were interviewing said, "At that point, we were all going out and buying our own copies, because we were so curious!"

    I've never understood the American prudishness around sexuality, but pretty open acceptance of violent subject matter. And having read your book, I think the cover was perfect.

    1. The fastest way to get blowback about an "offensive book" is to take it away, thus making the children who were supposed to read it, curious enough to seek it out elsewhere.

      And thanks for the compliment.

  2. Well said! Especially with important things like history, we can't just ban books like Huck Finn in the interest of pretending that racism and the N-word never existed. We can't present kids with a sugarcoated version of history because we somehow think they can't handle it. That's not doing them any favors. Great job on guiding your kid intelligently.

    1. Clemons had always written from personal experience, and considering the time frame in question (mid 19th century) you simply can't retroactive apply today's semi-warped values to stuff written then.

      Kids are definitely smarter than we give them credit for. We may not like their viewpoints from time to time, but we should respect them.

  3. "Huckleberry Finn" is one of my favourite books. It's a brilliant diatribe against racism and it saddens me that people misunderstand why Twain depicted racism (i.e. in order to then show how evil it was by having Huckleberry Finn reject it). But people misunderstand "Tom Sawyer" too and see Tom as a clever charmer whereas I think he is a proto-fascist bully. Oh well -- eye of the beholder, I guess.

    1. Interesting take on Tom Sawyer. To be honest, I've never actually read either Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, having heard about them ad nauseam in all possible forms (t.v., film, music). But, being a large general fan of American History and to a lesser degree, American social history, people taking historical things out of context and twisting them around bothers me a lot.

  4. Every once in a while I see someone take exception to Twain's language and, inevitably they just don't understand what he is doing.

    1. Exactly. In order to understand Twain, you have to understand the era that he lived/worked/wrote in. If you can't, then you can't possibly object to anything he wrote.

  5. The right to choose... If you don't like it or approve of it, don't read it:-)

    1. Exactly. Just don't force your opinions on others, especially if you're in a position of power.

  6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still one of the greatest American novels and it's somewhat unfathomable that educators would ban it in some places. The terminology might seem offensive, but contextually it is authentic. And the message of the book is an important one for our age.

    I find it odd that books with certain profanity and perhaps objectionable content for some are added to recommended reading lists, while the great books of influence like Twain's novel and the Bible are discouraged and even banned from many school libraries. The historical context of literature is important in the understanding of literature of yesterday as well as today.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Extremely odd indeed. Personally, my parents rarely cared about what books I'd read. They treated me like a mature individual that was capable of deciding for myself what I could and could not read.

      I'm pretty much the same way. When my daughter used to read on a consistent basis, I would once in a great while, question the book she would be reading (even asked someone at a bookstore once about a book she was reading that was slightly out of her age bracket). Beyond that, I felt (and still feel) that my daughter is old enough to decide for herself what to read or not read.


These days, the written word is to die for, so please leave a comment that shows me and everyone else the real you. All kinds of verbiage will be cheerfully accepted in the spirit it was written.