Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Salon: Testing the boundaries

Last month was Banned Books Month and while I didn't weigh in with my opinion then, I have been busily putting my money where my mouth is this month, or at least testing the boundaries and resolve of the principal at my youngest child's school. A little background first. Last year, without sending a note home to warn anyone of his decision, the principal made an unusual announcement one morning. Twilight, the book, and all things associated with it, including clothing and accessories would no longer be allowed at school. Had he read the book and found it objectionable? I have no idea, because as mentioned, there was no note home explaining the action. And as a matter of fact, my neighbor's fourth grader happened to be wearing a Twilight shirt the morning of the announcement so she had to call home to her mother for a different shirt.

There ensued long discussions at the bus stop, amongst the mothers, discussing the action and to confirm that there had been no warning note home. And while I might have loathed reading Henry David Thoreau long ago in high school, I do still harbour a bit of the good ole civil disobedience tendency in me when I think there has been an injustice. For instance, long before I had kids, I heard that our town (in another state entirely from the one we are in now) had pulled several books off the library shelves after an outraged patron complained. I immediately forked over the money for Anne Rice's erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy in response. In that case, I will say not that I agreed with the patron but that I thought the books were poorly written (although some people surely find nipple clamps erotic, I don't, but more troubling was Rice's inability to use more than one description in the entire book--and I certainly don't find banal repetitious writing erotic either) and so I very much regretted my kneejerk response. I haven't learned from my mistakes though and so I immediately plotted a reading of Twilight that would be a bit in your face to the school. Because you see, I have gotten older and nastier and I am no longer content just to spend the money on a forbidden item. I have to rub it in. Won't I be just a delightful old lady once I reach that stage and age? So I decided that I would read Twilight on my volunteer shifts at school. Mwuhaha!
Now, before people get their knickers all in a knot, I am completely and totally okay with the school librarian choosing not to have Twilight in the school's library. It is, after all, an elementary school and the book's topic, themes, and reading level better suit it to middle school or high school libraries. And I know that school librarians make decisions about the suitability of books for their limited shelf space everyday. That is not what I'm protesting. What I am specifically huffed about is the fact that children were told that they were no longer allowed to bring their own copies into school to read during their silent class reading time. And yes, the principal enforcing this is the same one who is so adamant that reading logs be used school-wide. So in my head, he's all about making reading a terribly unpleasant activity for children and needs to see a bit of civil disobedience. I've already fired my salvo against reading logs (which the teacher forwarded to him) and now it's time to tackle the Twilight thing (although I concede that he loosened the restriction on clothing and accessories this year).

So I forsook the books I was reading and enjoying and trotted in to work my library shift with Twilight held against my chest, face-out, as I wandered through the office to the library. Once in the library, I set it on the desk face-up while I checked in the morning's returns. And then I picked it up, this book of Stephanie Meyers' that has caused so much kerfuffle, and started reading it. I set it down several times to check books out for classes and to straighten the shelves but most of my shift was spent in the pages of Twilight. A couple of teachers looked askance at it either sitting on the desk or in my hands and the assistant principal slowed way down as she passed me on her way to her office but not one person said one thing to me about the verboten book. My shift ended, I collected my things, checked out in the office and left. I think I heard a big sigh of relief from the building as the doors closed behind me. ;-)

Now, in my 2 hours there in between the actual work I had to do, I read over 100 pages of the book. So far it is a very quick read and has nothing even remotely objectionable in it besides the writing. Yes, my apologies to all the Twilight fans out there, but this is one pedestrian novel with mind-numbingly dreary writing to it. Obviously I'm not hooked. And that is going to make it all the worse for the school because I decided that I would *only* read it every other Monday when I am at the school for library. Not being terribly engaged in the story made this an easy decision (told you I'm getting nastier and more underhanded as I get older). So tomorrow, I will trot into the library with Twilight tucked in my arms again. And I will be as Thoreau and test the patience of the principal yet again. I can't remember how many pages the darn book is (I leave it in my car and can't be bothered to check right now) but I know it's long, which should mean I will be poking that nerve for a couple of months with my "only twice a month" library schedule. It may be poorly written, but it shouldn't be banned, especially if kids want to bring their own copies from home. I may be an irritant but I prefer to think of myself as a grain of sand in an oyster though I suspect the principal is starting to think I am more like a boil on the school's ass. Either way, I will have proved my point, don't you think?


  1. I completely love your response, and I totally see myself doing similar things when I have children.

  2. Oh, yes! I love your civil disobedience. I agree, Twilight is very poorly written and Bella is a horrible role model for young women, but if a young person is reading at all it is vitally important that we support them.

    I wonder if the principle was pressured by parents to make this decree?

  3. Can you hear that? Oh yes, it is me applauding loudly!!! You go girl...I wonder how long it will take them to drag you into the principal's office?!?? *laughing*

    By the way, I read Rice's trilogy when I was in a Rice reading binge many years ago...and found it pretty forgettable (bad porn really!).

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  5. Actually, Bella is a pretty good role model in many ways, with the obvious exception of her love life. She is incredibly competent and self-assured (in all things non-Edward). She manages her dad's household without a blink, she arranges for her transfer because of an understanding of other people's needs, she handles her disability with grace. (I seem to remember her clumsiness on that level.)

    OK, she is obsessed with a boy, but she cleverly picks a boy obsessed with her, and who is willing to put her safety as his first priority. Yes, he's a stalking weirdo, but this is OK because it turns out he's SPECIAL. Have fun reading in the library! Maybe you'll get through the 2nd book; if you think the first one drags, you ain't seen nothing yet.

  6. I've chosen to give the whole Twilight book thing a miss, not because I'm opposed to it in any way, but because there are other things that I would rather be reading (for the record, I LOVED Harry Potter!). They just don't interest me on the whole, and now hearing other people comment that the writing could use some improvement, well, I'm glad that I'm not missing out.

    Good for you for bucking the system a little. I agree that ANYTHING that gets kids reading is a good thing. Sometimes my 10 year-old son chooses to read things (Goosebumps) that I wouldn't have chosen for him myself, BUT as it gets him reading for fun, I'm good with it. Great post!

  7. I'm chuckling out loud and wishing to be you when I grow up!

    I haven't tried reading it to see what the fuss is about. I'm not into vampires and my daughter says it's "okay" but definitely for kids. I couldn't even get far in Harry Potter because of the too-young writing (enjoy the movies).

    Maybe they should be glad they care so much about reading. What's it going to do? Reach out and yank them into the book and turn them into vampires?

  8. Oh that's awesome.

    I admit, I'm not thrilled that my 4 year old knows who Edward and Bella are or that monsters are suddenly vampires. I guess at daycare one of the other 4 year olds has an obsessed sister and it has worn off.

  9. I love your response, but couldn't stand the book. Just my opinion.

  10. I love this! I have the same kind of response to hearing anyone make pronouncements about what others aren't allowed to read.

    I read through enough of Twilight to get the gist--as you say, it's not very well written--and have watched the first two movies. In the first movie, Edward is much less of a controlling, stalker guy, so it was kind of sweet. In the second movie, there were several parts where the 16-year-olds with me and my daughter laughed, and one or two where the entire audience laughed (AT the movie, not with it).

  11. LOVE THIS! I do feel bad for you, having to read the book but twice a month shouldn't be a problem. You'll keep us updated?

    I did read Twilight, finally. It took me two tries and a full week but I got through it. Did I read the other three? Nope, couldn't care less what happened.


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