Ban the banner not the book

I finished The Education of Harriet Hatfield this morning, a May Sarton novel about a gay woman who loses her longtime companion and decides to open a women’s book shop. It’s seemed to me like a perfectly innocent story, narrated by Harriet, as she deals with establishing her book shop, making new friends and making enemies. People come to the bookshop, Harriet drinks tea with them, and they get involved in each other’s lives. Pretty innocent goings on but some neighborhood bullies feel threatened by her when she is outed in a newspaper story. They harrass and threaten her and steal her firewood. Ultimately Harriet wins over the neighborhood with her quiet strength, makes lasting friendships and finds her purpose.

Seriously that’s the book.

 So imagine my shock when I read that a NH teacher was fired in 1996 for providing this book and Forster’s Maurice to students. The book was published in ’89 and 7 years later people were still finding it controversial enough to have it banned. The only problem I had with tEoHH was that it felt a little dated and whenever one of the characters was confused she had them say “I’m rather at sea…” I love May Sarton and I don’t give a fiddler’s fart (a fabulous expression I picked up from Angela’s Ashes) that she was gay.

Banning books is silly. It’s much easier to just not read the so-called offensive book. Hey all you book banners…here’s what you do: if you don’t like a book, or a character, or a theme in a book – don’t read it.  If you pick it up, page through it and are shocked and horrified you can put it down. You can pretend it doesn’t exist.You can personally ban it. You will not go to hell for allowing others access to the book.

As an example, Ann Coulter is banned from my personal library. I would never buy her book or borrow it from the library because I think she’s an ignorant wench. Sometimes at the bookstore I turn her books around so the cover is facing in. That way I don’t have to see her self-righteous face staring back at me. It’s a very simple and peaceful solution. Yes, a clerk will have to come by and fix it, but I more than make up for it by fixing mishelved books in my browsing hours. I don’t believe I’ll go to hell for allowing this book to be read by others. I may be denied the pleasure of telling Ann Coulter she’s a wench when she is smouldering in hell and I am romping around heaven surrounded by thousands of books – but I think I can handle that.


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