I'm not a parent, but I remember what it feels like to be a kid.
I remember reading Gore Vidal's "Myra Breckinridge" when it was way beyond my comprehension. I only knew that it was racy, and so I read it. I was not corrupted.
I remember trying to borrow a collection of John O'Hara stories and the Bookmobile librarian confiscating it. "That's not for children," she said, even though the Duluth Public Library had no age restrictions.
My parents complained, furious that someone would try to control what I read.
And I remember reading "Maus" as a young woman. At first my reaction was dismissive — a comic book! — but as I read I was devastated by Art Spiegelman's excruciating story of the mice and the cats — that is, the Jews and the Nazis. And when I finished his book I understood the Holocaust on a more emotional, tragic level than I ever had before.
You probably know that a school board in McMinn County, Tenn., has voted unanimously to remove "Maus" from classrooms. The vote came on Jan. 10 but the news broke on Holocaust Remembrance Day, an irony not lost on anyone.
Board members are bothered that the book contains one nude drawing and eight words of "rough" language. This book about Spiegelman's parents, both Holocaust survivors, this book that won a Pulitzer Prize, is now banned.
Who do these school board members think they are? How dare they do this?
The truth is, schools and libraries do this all the time. Often — but not always — it's at the request of people who complain about certain books. And it's time that everyone else starts speaking up.
Right behind it are "Stamped," by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds; "All American Boys," by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie.
Those cowardly officials might hide behind complaints of nudity or language, but let's look at those books: To a one, they were written by people who have historically been marginalized, persecuted, hunted down and murdered. Black writers, Native writers, Jewish writers, gay writers and transgender writers.
This makes me so furious I can hardly type these words.
Books are not the problem. Books and libraries are there to open doors, open windows, shine lights. These people who would ban books are running around slamming windows and shutting off lights just as fast as they possibly can.
Some say they don't want kids reading about characters who are transgender because it will lead to "gender confusion." Let me tell you this: It won't. "Myra Breckinridge" did not make me want gender reassignment surgery. Kids who are not transgender will not suddenly think they are because they read about it in a book.
Kids who are transgender, however, might feel relief, a sense of being seen, an understanding that they are not alone.
If you don't want your children reading these books, fine. Stop them if you can. But if you don't want anybody's children reading these books, you are a bigot.
How dare these tinpot officials ban books? How dare that librarian take John O'Hara away from me? It's not a big step from one to the other. My parents were right to complain.
Reading a book will not make your straight child gay any more than it will turn your white child Black. No good comes from hiding in the dark. Turn on the lights and get noisy. It's the only way to stop censorship.