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Let Me Tell You a Story: Celebrating Banned Books Week

September 23rd, 2018 · No Comments · Books, City Library, Events, Main Branch, Teens, West Branch

Rebecca was a curious 13-year-old girl who grew up in 6 different schools and 7 different towns across the United States. Keeping childhood relationships was hard for her, so she retreated into books when recess seemed too intimidating and after-school too boring. She consumed everything she could get her hands on. She excelled in school when she put her mind to it, but sometimes lessons were too easy, and she got bored there, too.

For all her academic achievements, she somehow missed some basic sex-ed classes. Either a school didn’t offer them at all, or she moved away just before they were supposed to start, or she entered a school after they finished. Her mom taught her about periods, pads, and “becoming a woman,” but she also taught Rebecca that a virgin was a woman who has never been kissed (that’s not true). It was an excruciating afternoon, and something she’d like to never repeat.

Rebecca’s curious nature and thirst for knowledge could have led her to find information from other sources, but something happened after she turned 13 and “became a woman” that made this lack of knowledge a real problem. Something was wrong. Her period didn’t happen on a regular schedule like her mom said it would. Sometimes it would show up after only a week from the last one. Sometimes it would be several months. Was she pregnant? She didn’t know how a woman got pregnant. Was she sick? Did she have cancer? Was she dying?!

She knew she couldn’t ask her mother these questions. It would be too embarrassing. She couldn’t ask her doctor because her mom was always in the room at her yearly physical. She couldn’t ask her friends (the few she had) because that would also be embarrassing, and then they would know something was wrong with her.

The only place Rebecca could think of to find answers was the place where she always found what she was looking for: her local library. So, one day after school when her mom dropped her off for a few hours, she searched the catalog and found The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality, by St. Stephen’s Community House. She didn’t know that this book had almost been taken off library shelves because of a concerned parent. A few weeks before, this person had written a letter to the Library Director, calling the book “child abuse,” “lesbian indoctrination,” “full of degenerate sexual desires,” and “full of debatable facts.”

Rebecca didn’t know that libraries all over the United States receive hundreds of challenges like these a year because they are committed to offering books, movies, and other materials that reflect a broad spectrum of human experiences, knowledge, and moral perspectives. All she knew was that this book looked like it could answer her questions, so she checked it out.

Thanks to The Little Black Book for Girlz, Rebecca found stories from other girls like her on all sorts of topics that weren’t taught at school or at home. She found out that irregular periods are one sign of PCOS, an endocrine disorder that affects one in ten women, and that she CAN ask her doctor to speak to her without her mom in the room. She found out that she wasn’t dying or pregnant, and she didn’t have cancer. She found out that birth control might be able to help her, and that it wasn’t just for preventing pregnancy. She also found out what a virgin was.

Libraries are passionate advocates for lifelong learning, and it’s this reason why most attempts at censorship of materials fail, and why every year libraries celebrate Banned Books Week. Celebrate with us this September 23-29 by reading a challenged or banned book today. One of them could help you, like it helped Rebecca.

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