Being the Light in the Darkness

“Authoritarian and fascist communities, this is what they always go for, they always burn the books. It actually shows the power of books. If they didn’t have any power, they wouldn’t be burning or banning them.” – Susan Meyers

I feel like the world’s light is choking. That we’re all on the verge of suffocating here. I don’t like talking about politics or religion because I feel it can muddy my message as an author, but I feel like some things need to be discussed because if you don’t say anything, you could be considered complicit with the enemy.

Books being banned is not a new phenomenon. I own a few books that have been banned at various times throughout our history. And as an author, I think I have to be aware of the power of words. I, sometimes, think people associate controversial with moral wrongness. I think some people assume if we don’t discuss things openly with our children, it’s possible to obliterate them. I have mentioned in the past that I think evil thrives on darkness.

As an abuse survivor, I think it’s important to share my story. To shout it, as author Laurie Halse Anderson extols. Ironically enough, one of her books was banned from my school, but I read it anyway. When I was twelve, my mother told me I would be raped and left for dead. I didn’t know the meaning of the word. While Speak did not give me the exact language I needed to articulate what happened to me in college, it did empower me to use my voice eventually and tell what had happened to me.

I truly believe that the darkness is a shield for some, but just because we choose to look the other way or refuse to shine a light on the atrocities of the world, it does not simply vanish. The cockroaches do not run away in the darkness; they merely hide.

I am tired of people claiming to protect children’s innocence by refusing to shine a light on reality. Books empower people. Books enlighten others. Our words are meant to be read or heard or seen – not engulfed by flames.

Albert Camus once said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Good fiction might sound like a story, but it is enabling us to see a world outside of our own. Though maybe we might not be able to transport ourselves to parallel universes like we can in some works of fiction nor can we talk to animals like in others, we can still learn a lot about others and ourselves through the books we read.

If we start cutting people off from accessing these books, we’re only narrowing the vision of reality of readers. I grew up in a small suburb outside of St. Louis, Missouri, and I went to private school until I was in the twelfth grade. Today, I have friends from across the world who say I am far more open-minded than most Americans they know. This was not because of my schooling or where I grew up; rather, it is because of the people, situations, and worlds books introduced me to.

As author Neil Gaiman said, “We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it’s the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are.”

I, for one, am a writer dedicated to writing the true things. If my books get banned one day, I can say it’s a pleasure to be on a list with such great authors as Toni Morrison, Lois Lowry, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Ray Bradbury.

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