I was part of a discussion with five librarians in our university library last week about Banned Book Week. I got some fascinating insights on the pressures librarians have in selecting titles to purchase.
And pressures to de-select, or ban, books.
One of the librarians pointed out that as late as the 1980s her high school banned Lord of the Flies because it depicted a group of boys who create a little society that descends into primitive, deadly behavior.
"If that's the case, you should ban my novel," I said.
There was silence as everyone looked to see if I was serious.
One Woman's Vengeance is about Nora Hawks, whose home is invaded by a 12-member gang. They murder her husband, gang rape her and leave her for dead. She survives, returns to New Mexico and seeks out a retired bounty hunter to teach her how to use weapons, track and kill. It's a novel about a severely traumatized, very strong woman bent on revenge at any cost. It's also about how women were viewed as nearly nonbeings in the 19th century.
It's violent. I spent seven years and 20 drafts exploring how far I could go to make the mental and physical violence both real and palpable. It has strong language. I wanted to be accurate in the way people communicated.
At one point, Nora renounces God, who she feels failed her.
By many standards, and in many circles, One Woman's Vengeance qualifies for a good ban.
And to their credit, our librarians agreed. They banned it on the basis of sex, violence and adult language.
To me, book banning is a huge running joke with the continual punch line of "failure."
No book has ever been universally banned on a permanent basis.
- When you ban a book you draw attention to it. You create a desire among readers who want to part the curtain at the peep show. Tell me I can't have something because it is bad for me and I want it more. We all crave the forbidden.
Supernatural beings have appeared in tales since men could put their visions into words. Gather wizards in a series for kids and you've got a ban. Homosexual penguins, a Morman-hating Sherlock Holmes... The list goes on.
So thanks for banning my book, Mansfield University librarians.
For a short time I will bask in the company of D.H. Lawrence, Mark Twain, Maya Angelou and, yes, the Bible.