It’s Banned Books Week and the freedom to read is something I feel very strongly about. It is also something I now strongly associate with a particular portion of my family.
I am very proud and thankful to be part of a relatively close-knit set of readers in my family—including my Gran, Mother, Aunt, and Cousin—and I think a rather telling illustration of us (and most of the women in our family) is one that comes from our association with books. We love them! We carry around stacks of them. We find it hard not to stop in bookstores. We love our libraries. We just LOVE books! And we love sharing them, hearing about them, talking about them… So, imagine our reaction when we started hearing about this highly touted and increasingly maligned children’s series from Britain in the late 90s and early Aughts.
J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series probably would have gone totally unnoticed by us. We were all pretty much beyond reading books for that age group. But then the news stories started with parents up in arms over the exploits of a tween wizard and his friends. Really? Then came the sermons, challenges, and outright burnings—so much energy for a book that was already an international bestseller. It all got our attention.
So, what was our group of educated and responsible readers to do?
Read them, of course! There had to be something good there. We are a fine crowd of contrary women. Do not tell us what we should not read—it only infuriates and intrigues us. We are an example of what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he commented, “Every burned book enlightens the world.” We read them, re-read them, and shared them with others.