Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Still Burning Over Book Banning

Bastard Toadflax

I don’t like being told what I can and can’t read. My parents knew this so they commonly let me read almost anything when I was growing up. This was a good decision.
Generally speaking my sister didn’t care what I read either.
Except there was this one time, more than 40 years ago, and to this day it galls me.
We were coming back from visiting relatives in Salmon Arm, B.C., a trip that took a day and a half from Fort Assiniboine, Alberta, back then. My Uncle in Salmon Arm had given us some books to take home. He was a voracious reader and had hundreds of books, many of which were wonderful pulp science fiction.
On the car ride home I picked up a double novel, “Our Man in Space,” by Bruce W. Ronald and “Ultimatum in 2050 A.D.” by Jack Sharkey (Ace Double, copyright 1965). I still have this book in my bookcase.
My sister, four years older than me, started in on something called “The Parasite.”
I finished mine and wanted to read hers. She wasn’t reading it and what she had read of it scared her. Because of this, she told mom I shouldn’t read it.
Even then at age nine the unfairness of it burned me. What I read is my choice mine alone.
Now, before this gets any further, please understand. This has nothing to do with my sister looking out for me. This is my sister’s fear being so unreasonable that she couldn’t handle anyone else reading this book.
So mom took the book into the front seat of the car. I fussed a bit then decided I’d dig it out when we got home.
I never saw that book again.
I still have the one I read plus many hundreds of others. My parents had probably every other book ever given to them.
Within about a year a radio play came on that started with some guy telling his doctor about a growth on his shoulder. That’s as far as it got because my sister started screaming,“That’s ‘The Parasite’ I know it.”
Off went the radio.
I’ve tried to find this book through the Internet. I’ve found something by Arthur Conan Doyle with the same name, but I have no idea if it’s the same story.
It’s been more than 40 years since this happened. Whenever I search through used books there’s the small spark of hope that I’ll find it.
Maybe I’ll hate the story. Maybe it’ll scare me. But that’s for me to find out, not for anyone else to dictate.
Maybe this is why I hate book banning so much. It goes beyond being wrong, stupid, reprehensible, offensive, and inexcusable. For me, it’s personal.
As for the picture of Bastard Toadflax, it's not really related to the post other than it's parasitic, but it's name fits my mood.


the Bag Lady said...

Oh, I agree with you - you should be allowed to read whatever you want. (The Rancher, on the other hand, should only read what I allow him to read! tee hee)

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks, df Bag Lady.

carla said...

I was raised by some amazing strong liberal ACLU believing parents (shocking I KNOW :)) & recall them ranting, errr, talking a lot about censorship etc when I was growing up.

Then I rolled my teen aged eyes in annoyance.

now I admire their stance and follow suit.

Leah J. Utas said...

Good for them, Carla. And good for you. I am against censorship. Once it's started where does it end?

Barbara Martin said...

During childhood I had all kinds of books to read that my brothers had been provided by well meaning great-aunts from England. In my teen years I learned that Alberta had a committee screen books, magazines, films before allowing the public to see them. Violence and sex were sliced out of films that were rated 'restricted'.

In junior high school I came across a book found at the corner drug store, a new mystery book with science fiction elements. It was a very different sort of book than I had read before. It started out harmlessly for the first four chapters of a couple moving into a house in a different location of the country, the wife for some reason going down into the basement where she discovered tunnels burrowed into the earth. Later, after learning about the burrowing creatures (like anteaters) who are telepathic, she becomes intimate with one of them.

I don't remember how the story ended, but I had given another copy to a school chum with the usual 'don't show your parents or you'll never see it again' warning. I knew enough at 14 that this was one of those 'books' that had been overlooked by the government censor committee. Well, a couple of days later my 'copy' mysteriously disappeared from my bedroom. The corner store where I purchased it no longer had the several other copies available. When I asked the store clerk if there were more copies he said they were all gone, and seemed agitated.

I suspected my mother, a teacher, had removed the book, but knew better than to confront her about it. Despite the questionable content, my earlier introduction to wierd information came from watching 'Twilight Zone' and the 'Outer Limits' on TV. The book genre fit in well with its extras.

It may have had an affect upon my writing: in some of my fantasy material there are human-animal hybrids.

Leah J. Utas said...

Barbara, that book sounds fascinating. I recall something about those censorship boards for movies, but I didn't realize they had their cold, dry fingers on books, too.
Everything we're exposed to has some impact on us and it all serves to make us well-rounded people. I suspect it did have an effect on your writing. A good effect. Do you recall the title?

Hilary said...

Ack.. I agree. There should be education surrounding books with "questionable" content. It's a shame to lose out on fine literature with even finer messages.

Leah J. Utas said...

Yes. Yes. Yes. Hilary, it's the way.
Meanwhile, the linky didn't work. What should I have found?

Hilary said...

Ooops sorry. I guess some of the URL didn't make it into the link. I'll try just pasting it here and you can c/p it. Hopefully this will work.


Leah J. Utas said...

The link worked. The parent should be ashamed. Said parent will never understand why, though.

Nancy said...

I'll keep an eye out for The Parasite for you!

Leah J. Utas said...

Nancy, thank you so much.