Let’s celebrate a few books which have been deemed unfit for human consumption. The Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger). The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck). To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller). The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins). Harry Potter — the entire series (J.K. Rowling). The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky).
Each of these works has been labeled A Threat. The issues that offend people include sex, drugs, religion, values. A club will always exist whose members decide that if a book contains material that makes them uncomfortable, then the solution lies in a two-pronged attack. First, condemn the book as evil. Second, make it go away.
The Fifty Shades trilogy (E.L. James) has also been banned, and I thought the first book was excellent. When I tell people I’ve read these novels, they often express surprise that I’d admit it (which I find amusing). But they’re more surprised by my reaction. I think E.L. James is extremely talented at describing sex and sexual situations. Any good writing is difficult and as an author, I respect her talent tremendously. My problem lies in the second and third books in the series. James describes a psychotherapist who glaringly lacks boundaries and ethics. The doctor “bids” on his patient’s girlfriend at a fundraiser and literally buys her for a dance. He regularly attends social events hosted by the patient’s family. He accepts a referral from his patient, and then discusses one patient with another.
As a therapist who practiced for over 25 years before becoming an author, I dealt with the stigma on a regular basis. I’m angered by a book which feeds the stereotype, and worsens the problem. However, I would never suggest banning the trilogy. If I don’t like the books, I can choose not to read them, or not to recommend them. Even though I strongly believe that E.L. James promotes a damaging stereotype, I would stand with her, just as I would stand with other banned authors whose values I fully support.
Likewise, I loved the entire Harry Potter series, but I’m appalled by J.K. Rowling’s apparent need to indulge in transphobic rants. I’m saddened, outraged, and struggling to reconcile the values of acceptance depicted in her novels with her intolerance. I can choose to never again purchase one of her novels, but I’d never support banning her books.
As a novelist, I know that “Author” and “Universal Popularity” do not belong in the same sentence. My books are extremely supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, which I’m aware brings some people to view them as Should-Be-Banned. If my novels were ever placed on a “Banned List,” I’d be deeply angered and saddened. I’d also be honored to be affiliated with the writers in this eclectic group.