Reactions along the lines of WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE and WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING OUR CHILDREN?
Which made me start thinking about banning books and censoring what our children are allowed to read. Banned Book Week was September 24 - October 1, and since most of the people I follow on Twitter are in publishing, it was a big deal. Lots of books that I love have been banned. Harry Potter. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The Hunger Games. Twilight. The Golden Compass. Not to mention loads of classics, like The Catcher in the Rye and Bridge to Terabithia, books that helped form me as a person when I was young.
So I thought I would share a few books that changed me.
Milestones in the life of a writer, if you will.
King of the Wind by Margeurite Henry- The first full-length book I read in one sitting in 2nd grade. Significant because I realized I liked books more than most of the kids I knew and that a story was the perfect escape.
Watership Down by Richard Adams - I saw the movie at the video store, and my dad wouldn't rent it because it was "too violent." Mind you, I'd seen JAWS and Piranha!, so I was desperate to know how a cartoon about rabbits could be worse than that. The school librarian wouldn't let me read it, as I was in 3rd grade and it was in the 5th grade section. So I "borrowed" it secretly and returned it when I was done. To this day, it's one of my all-time favorites.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle - The rest of the class was reading something I'd already read in 5th grade, so the teacher gave me this one, a banned book. I still remember the way I felt when that folded up skirt explained time travel. My little mind was blown. Blown, I say!
Pet Sematary by Stephen King - I remember my mom devouring this book while suntanning in the back yard, and when I asked about it, she told me I couldn't read it. So of course I waited until she was done and secretly borrowed it. I had no idea things like that could be written-- sick, twisted, terrifying. It was delicious. And it gave me nightmares. And I loved it. That was 6th grade.
IT by Stephen King - Same as Pet Sematary. I was 13, and I thought it would be cool. It completely messed me up. I am still terrified of clowns, of rain gutters, of spiders. But as scared as I was, I COULD NOT STOP READING. Even at the time, I was amazed at the power of a story, of a good book.
My daughter saw the movie in Target yesterday and asked me about it, and I said, "It's the scariest thing I've ever seen, and you can't read it until you're at least 13."
Valley of Horses by Jean Auel - My mom gave me Clan of the Cave Bear, which was fascinating. I picked up the sequel at a used book store. I mainly remember reading it in the middle school library, getting to the first... scene... and thinking, OH MY GOD. PEOPLE DO THIS? DO THE LIBRARIANS KNOW I'M READING THIS? HAVE THEY READ IT, TOO? I think the most important issue here is that it was a gentler introduction to sex than the other kids' conversations, than music videos, than movies, than pornography. It was extremely explicit. But the relationship was warm, kind, caring, generous. It was a good way, I think, to learn about such things.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin - I read this in high school and felt like I'd found kinship in a book. And, of all the books I've ever read, it was almost the most damaging, because it gave me dangerous ideas that luckily didn't come to fruition. But do I think it should have been banned? No. No. No. The book wasn't the reason I wanted to kill myself. It just showed me I wasn't alone in feeling hopeless, like an outsider.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - One of my best friends and my long-time mentor recommended this one to me, and I thought, "Me? Read romance? HA FREAKIN' HA." But as with so many things, she was spot on. I bought this one in a used book store and read it so fast that I was back there before the doors opened the next day, sleepless and starving for the sequel. Outlander taught me that romance can be more than romance. It can be a gripping, well-written tale rich in historical details. It can be a saga, the story of people we come to deeply care about. Outlander was my gateway into quality romance that's more than romance.
And now, here I am, waiting for my first book to be published next Spring.
My dear hope is that, like Outlander, it's a romance that goes beyond romance, with a story and characters that will appeal to men and women alike. My dearest hope is that WICKED AS THEY COME will touch someone in the way that these books touched me. Not a huge, life-altering change, but maybe it will make someone reconsider the romance or paranormal genres. Or maybe it will provide them the escape they need from the frustrations of everyday life. I'll be happy if it just makes a few people smile.
Maybe, one day, it will even be banned.