Is Censorship a Dirty Word?Written by Nikki Tate-Stratton
On shelves of children's section of your local library or bookstore you'll find books with characters who are child molesters, compulsive gamblers, and drug addicts. Teenagers in young adult novels have too much to drink, get pregnant, and commit crimes. Some series fiction has so little literary merit it seems a complete waste of your child's reading time. So, at what point should parents step in and intervene in reading choices of their children? Should we simply turn our kids loose and let them find their own way through slew of available books, some of which we may find objectionable for any number of reasons? At what point does a well-meant reading suggestion become a subtle act of censorship?
If you have any kind of life yourself, you probably won't be able to read every book your child brings home, especially if you happen to live with an avid reader. Last summer my 12 year-old daughter read more than a hundred novels – she is a much faster reader than I am and even if I had wanted to keep up, I couldn't have. If you have more than one child, good luck!
Somewhere, someone has banned even very finest literary titles. Books are subversive vehicles – they expose children to new ideas, alternate worldviews, and different perspectives and this is exactly what makes them so threatening. But by reading a wide variety of books with our children and then using those books as launching points for discussions, we have an opportunity to show our kids how to approach books with a critical eye.
Characters struggling with moral dilemmas can be used to start discussions about moral values of your own family. Exposure to mores of other cultures could be an excellent way to examine our own cultural assumptions and biases. For example, reading Deborah Ellis' novel, Breadwinner, (which looks at 6th grader, Parvana's experiences as a girl living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan) is a great way to launch discussions on gender relations, fundamentalism, or non-democratic forms of government.
If you are a believer in free speech and free exchange of ideas in a democratic society, then don't be too quick to strip your child's shelves of Garfield comics, or forbid her to read anything by Francesca Lia Block. Instead, be aware of what your child is reading, offer gentle guidance, make suggestions for possible reading material, and remain open to discussions that may be triggered as a result of your child reading something from a perspective other than one found at home.
There are some terrific novels out there for teens covering subjects from drinking and drug use (What They Don't Know, Anita Horrocks) to teen gambling (Double or Nothing, Dennis Foon), or learning to find your own way in face of outside pressures (Changing Jareth, Elizabeth Wennick). If you suspect it's time to have a chat about a subject like sexual orientation or religious beliefs different to your own, why not introduce topic through a book you can share and discuss with your child? The author's perspective does not have to match your own for book to be useful.
Quibbling with content is not only reason parents balk at certain books. Pulp fiction for youngsters is a cause for concern for many. But should you panic when your daughter picks up yet another title about Mary-Kate and Ashley? Not necessarily. Sometimes a child simply needs to unwind, relax, and not have to think too hard. Reading a bit of un-demanding series fiction is no worse than watching some television. For child who has developed an addiction to books like this, simply banning offensive titles won't necessarily stop your child from reading them (and, an all out ban often serves to make forbidden fruit all more appealing). School and public libraries as well as best friends are all sources of contraband reading material even if you refuse to purchase another Sweet Valley High novel.
Writing for YourselfWritten by Amrit Hallan
I often see writers getting bogged down by "markets". They constantly worry about who is going to like their work and who is not going to like their work.
Before I go further with what I intend to convey in this article, I would like to make a few things clear. There are many sorts of writers: Romance Writers, Fantasy Writers, Mystery Writers, Erotica Writers, etc. And of course, Copywriters and Journalists. Writers belonging to these categories have to constantly keep in their minds for what sort of readers they are writing. I don't mean to portray them as lesser writers, but they are basically catering to concept of "demand and supply", and they are basically writing for money. You may ask: what's wrong in that? Nothing. I myself offer my writing services to those who are willing to pay.
Personally I believe, if you want to excel in field of writing, you have to see yourself beyond such peripheries of categories and markets. I often find myself saying, "Writers write for themselves, readers read them if they like them." Some say statement is arrogant, but I couldn't care less.
You can't write well if you are always worrying about your readers. An aim of every worthy writer is to communicate in his own style, and still be able to communicate.
The first step in this direction is, to believe that you are right, without running into quicksand conceit. I have gone through this useless phase of vanity and it was most unproductive period of my life as a writer. A writer never writes on pre-drawn lines. He/she always defines and creates a unique style, and if that style carries valid originality, there is a miniscule chance of it being rejected by readers.
You have to be passionate about your writing even if it sounds ritualistic. Stay away from affectations just to please your readers. The passion always comes through your words, your phrases, your full stops and commas. This is a wonderful thing about words. They exactly convey way you feel no matter how adeptly you try to convey something else.