I don’t understand why some folks engage in censorship, especially here in America. When I read reports like Books Unbanned I reflect on my own experiences with reading.

Werewolves and Cave Bears

My first experience with books centered around exciting conventional reads, like Max Brand and Louis L’Amour westerns. I also read e.e. “Doc” smith as sci-fi and many others. I learned of America’s history (albeit it, fake) from Dana Fuller Ross' Wagon West series, which enabled me to get the big picture of American history and do well in school. Historical fiction that improved my grades…who would have thought?

These books became heirlooms that ended up, in their entirety, in my daughter’s care, all lovingly read and explored. She’s now a Ph.D at a university in another state, having suffered no ill effects from wide reading. I have since graduated to digital books, not wanting to deal with the paper of print books, a decision that I regret not at all with fiction.

With nonfiction, I prefer print books to pore through and take notes from. With fiction, I seldom re-read, since touching a book or viewing its cover immediately recalls the story to my mind. Quite frustrating for an avid reader…for a long time, the best story I ever read was the forgettable one, since that meant I could read it again and again.

While my interests were mostly Western and Sci-fi, I occasionally stumbled upon books that made me open my eyes a bit then look around to see who might be reading over my shoulder.

These stories included the first time I had seen someone write about sex in the context of werewolves. The story was terrifying In itself, but that the seductress was also a werewolf has stayed with me. It was my first exposure to sex in a book, and all the more memorable, assuming mythic proportions unequalled since. Obviously, I still don’t read books with a lot of sex in them. Maybe I should have.

Jane M Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear introduced me to horrible things that happen to women…and made me sensitive to how men treat women. From neanderthals in Cave Bear to humans in love in The Valley of the Horses, I came to a better understanding of sex and the potential conflicts between people, no matter their species.

These books shifted my thinking, along with Dana Fuller Ross’ Wagons West series. I learned a tremendous amount from them, even if it was inaccurate.

A Lesson

Given the freedom to read, I didn’t seek out sex and pornographic writing. That has always been a valuable lesson. Sure, like any young man, I was curious about human relations. But I knew reading wasn’t to be reduced to prurient accounts by characters limited to words on a page. Still, the encounters, the secret whispers and fumbling, tucked away in voluminous print volumes taught me something.

Embracing Exploration, Freedom

Having grown up in Panama and America, I came to value the espoused values of freedom from censorship and exploration (or at least the freedom).

“Young people are trying to understand their place in this world. Of course they’re exploring. And I want my children to live in a world where exploration is celebrated rather than admonished. The mental health toll of forcing everyone to assimilate to binaries is brutal." Source: Danah Boyd, Struggling with a Moral Panic Once Again

It is one I put into practice when I trusted my own children to be free range readers, to choose what they read and decided to pursue then measure that against the values my wife and I instilled in them.

Books Unbanned

As I read this report, I see a generation of youth who are restricted in their reading by fear-mongering and fearful cults, who don’t believe in the values they espouse. I love these songs from my childhood, and though I wish I could set them aside, I remember how I felt when I sang them, so I cling to them.

John Michael Talbot’s Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert/ But you shall not die of thirst/ You shall wander far in safety/ Though you do not know the way/ You shall speak your words in foreign lands/ And all will understand/ You shall see the face of God and live/ Be not afraid/ I go before you always/ Come follow me/ And I will give you rest/

Dan Schutte’s Though the Mountains May Fall

“Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust/ Yet the love of the Lord will stand/ As a shelter for all who will call on his name/ Sing the praise and the glory of God

I remember and believed these promise of these songs, the story that there was nothing I could not face without a loving being by my side.

A Dark Faith Grounded in Preternatural Fear

But the faith that censors children’s reading habits, that quakes in fear of an unloving god that sups on the fear of believers, that causes them to rise up in hate to persecute and terrorize, that is not my faith.

As I read the report at Books Unbanned, of children struggling to find stories where they are represented, I can’t imagine if my parents had said, “No, you can’t read that because it’s evil.”

This library card is important to me because it gives me access to high-quality educational and cultural resources that I would not be able to afford otherwise. As an online high school student, I do not have a physical library nearby that I can visit, so having an eCard makes me feel connected.” —Age 17, Texas

[My state’s] ‘divisive concepts’ law [has] forced many public school history teachers to censor their teaching for fear of being reported by parents…” —Age 23, New Hampshire

In the end, I would have found a way. As these children have to unearth and confront the hypocrisy and lies of their parents and communities, seeking only the truth of their experience in the world….

The Backlash is Coming

The backlash is coming, when these censored children realize the truths concealed from them. Oh, how awful will the regret be for the angry book burners and ban makers be. And for the others? They will simply be irrelevant, along with their fear and threats.