Hi SEers, John here with you today. The last time we were together, I talked about sensibilities in writing. I made the point that authors should be careful when writing characters of a specific race, gender, age, nationality, and sexual orientation because of changing social norms. I also stated that I didn’t believe writers should not exclude themselves from writing about these groups because they are not part of them. If you would like to read that post, you can go HERE.
Today I would like to take it one step further and discuss books written in a different time of our societal development. I intend to explore the idea of what should happen to books or stories that reflected older periods and older thoughts about race, gender, age, nationality, and sexual orientation.
We have heard that Gone with the Wind has come under criticism recently due to offensive slurs, typecasting, glorification of the Antebellum plantation-style of life, and gentle treatment of the KKK. The book was first published in 1936 when our society was not as enlightened as today. So, what should the current reaction be to the book Gone with the Wind? Should it be banned because of its representations?
We know the movie is out of circulation in some places for the exact representations. We also know the Seuess foundation discontinued six Dr. Seuss books because they don’t fit how we think of minorities today. Laura Ingles Wilder’s name is now off the Lifetime Achievement Award given out by the American Library Association because of her portrayals of Native Americans in her Little House on the Prairie book published in 1938. Barbar’s Travels is off the shelves of a British library since 2012 because of its apparent stereotypes of Africans. Critics also have faulted the Curious George books for the premise of a white man bringing home a monkey from Africa.
There are plenty of opportunities to ban a book like Gone with the Wind, yet one wonders if it wouldn’t be better to use the book’s offensive parts to teach what is precisely wrong with stereotypical descriptions of characters in the book. Also, wouldn’t it be better to use the book to discuss how fictional characters’ stereotypical depictions can hurt and affect real-life people? Even talking about the changing social norms would be better than simply declaring a book unfit to read because of some content.
Maybe because I’m an author, I hate to see a book be declared undesirable, but it does seem that we should embrace a discussion of any book that is outside our social norms. Include in the discussion why a text no longer reflects current attitudes. If we were to discuss why certain depictions in a book are wrong, we all would better understand each other. Maybe, more importantly, we could learn more about what actions and depictions are especially hurtful.
My vote is for more discussion around the issues pertaining to race, gender, age, nationality, and sexual orientation and less censorship of literature. I would love to hear your ideas. Use the comment section, and thanks for reading.