Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Grandmother Would Have Gone to Jail!

Publishers Weekly is reporting:

The Association of American Publishers is fighting censorship in Oregon. Yesterday it joined with six Oregon booksellers and the ACLU of Oregon to challenge a new Oregon law that criminalizes the dissemination of sexually explicit material to anyone under age 13, or the dissemination to anyone under age 18 of any material with the intent to sexually arouse the recipient or the provider. The new statute, which makes no provision for judging the material as a whole, nor for considering its serious literary, artistic or scientific value...

It doesn't seem like such a terrible thing, does it? Well, not until you read the example!

The Oregon ACLU said that among those who could be prosecuted are a 17-year-old girl who lends her 13-year-old-sister a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever, or a mother who gives her child a copy of Robie Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health.

My grandmother used to take me to the library EVERY week, and help me cart home the maximum limit of 14 books. By the time I was twelve, NONE of them were from the children's section. None of them. Unless, I was in the mood for rereading an old friend.

Sometimes the librarians would point out to my grandmother that I was picking "adult" books, and she would say, "Yes; she reads at an adult level." And that would be the end of it. She told me later that she had asked her sister, who was also a librarian, if she thought it was all right to let me read grown up books when I was so young, and the answer had been an unqualified yes. She said El had told her that if she forced me into simplistic children's books when I was ready for more complex reading that it might cause me to lose interest and that it was better to be ready to handle the awkwardness of discussing things I didn't understand than to risk turning me away from reading.

I'm sure she was right and that's one of the reasons I'm so grateful to her (and to my parents, who followed the same policy). Reading is such a major part of who I am as a person.

I read The Sting when I was eleven. Think how awful it must have been for her to explain to me that a Protestant and a prostitute was not the same thing! You cannot always count on phonics!


tamsaunt said...

I, too, benefited from her liberal views about reading. I can remember reading all the Frank Yerby books, considered in their day to be very racy, when I was still in high school. Her philosophy was that I would only understand what I was ready for and he wrote a rousing good story. She made lifelong readers of all her children who passed it to their children. A pretty good legacy!

Tess said...

My mum would have been in jail too! My sister and I both were reading at adult levels by 12 as well. I read GWTW by then and by some definitions, the scene where Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs likely would count.

Not sure my mum knew what was in Forever. And what would they think had they known I was reading Judith Krantz at 15!!