Whatever Wednesday: Banned Books Week and full disclosure about my adolescence

This is cross-posted from katjevanloon.com

September 24th through October 1st is Banned Books Week. Over the years, many books and writers have been banned or challenged — for political reasons or just some vague feeling of “needing to protect the children”.

Until this year, I’d never sought to read a banned book. Then I decided I’d try and find one, and saw on the list of top ten challenged books for 2010 were two books I’d already read this week — The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I’d picked these up because I’m on a bit of a YA bent right now, and because I’m a First Nations major who had the privilege of seeing Alexie speak at a conference several years ago.

What’s amazing is the amount of YA novels that get banned or challenged. We feel that we must protect children and teenagers from darkness, danger, naughty words. The fact is most kids these days already live in hell, and as Sherman Alexie says, those dark, dark books give them weapons with which to fight for their lives.

When I was 11 I was sneaking booze from my dad’s liquor cabinet. By the time I was 15 I had already tried to kill myself numerous times. When I was 18 and my mom sent me to get tested for diabetes (it runs in my family and I was showing symptoms), the doctor asked me what I would have done had I tested positive.

“I’d probably just let it kill me,” I said, completely serious.

He said he was going to recommend me to a therapist, and I said that was probably a good idea.

Eventually I got onto anti-depressants, and then I got off them for a while, and continued in my deep spiral of depression. I was living in the States, under-age, and drinking a case of Smirnoff Twists every other night, taking pain pills along with it hoping to slip into a coma while I slept (I just woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and needing to piss like a racehorse). I would drive my car fast on dark, curvy roads, hoping to lose control at the right moment. I cut myself a lot and screamed out my anguish.

Moving back home to Canada helped, but not much. It was legal for me to drink here, so my problem just intensified. I careened from one bad relationship to another and began to believe that I deserved the abuses they dealt out.

In June of last year I decided I was tired of wanting to die all the time, and went to my doctor and said “I need help.” She put me on pills which balanced me and stopped my drinking habit. Three months later I met the love of my life, and finally realized that I deserved to be loved and cherished.

I can now honestly say it’s been a year and four months since I thought about committing suicide, and even longer since I’ve attempted it (directly, at least — a year and a half ago I was still trying to drink myself to death). While I sometimes say, tongue-in-cheek, that life would be easier if I just offed myself — that is an example of dark wit in the face of crippling debt and chronic illness, self-hatred and despair.

So, I’m sorry, but just where were these people who so desperately wanted to “protect” me when I was enduring the horrors that led to this sort of depression? They want to ban books that may give me hope, because heavens forfend I read about kids overcoming insurmountable obstacles, about how friendship can get you through anything, about how it’s okay to be a smart girl, about a parent’s divorce not being the end of the world, about fighting off myriad enemies with only your wits and luck to guide you.

Now I read YA books and think “I hope that somewhere, a kid with the same crippling despair I felt is reading this and thinking life is worth living, if only for a little while longer.”

Because life is worth living. I am so happy my suicide attempts all failed, because no matter how bad the economy is (I still haven’t paid all of September’s rent), no matter how dark things look — my life is better now. In ways I couldn’t have imagined when I was 11, 15, 18, even 23. Books gave me weapons. Many of the ones I read that helped me have been challenged enough times to make the list, because they’re “dangerous” for kids to read.

The only thing that’s dangerous is for kids to stop reading.

Had I stopped reading…well, I may not be here today. Reading gave me courage, hope, and the strength to see it through to the end. It’s not the end yet, and I’m not going anywhere.

For Banned Books Week, pick up a YA book that’s been challenged. It shouldn’t be hard; they’re everywhere. See what’s so dangerous about giving kids hope.

Goals, loosely outlined

It’s no longer Wednesday, so I can’t do Whatever Wednesday. Which means I had to come up with some B.S. for Thursday.

Not sure why I’m letting this get to me so much. It’s not very important.


Things I’m Gonna Do (also a song by Rasputina) 

  • Release date for Bellica has been pushed from January 2012 to November 2011, Thanksgiving Weekend. In time to get it as a Christmas gift for your WASP relatives! Kidding. They wouldn’t like it. (Which may be greater incentive to get it for them, what am I saying.)
  • My family is made of WASPs so I can say this.
  • Currently editing like…something that edits a lot. An editor. Fiendishly. A fiendish editor. There are a lot of fracking chapters in this book, you know? And a lot of detail-tweaking — this is the problem with just getting it written and then having to change things later — it is so easy for your completely different culture that you’re writing about to get eclipsed by the culture in which you were raised, and you forget that it’s more natural for men to wear skirts in your world. And you have to go through and change it all. Again and again and again. Thank Goddess for Scrivener.
  • glasstown, my poetry book, is in the process of being released as an ebook. It’s not taking precedence over Bellica, however, so don’t expect to see it till Christmas-time, perhaps afterwards.
  • Still looking for a model for the cover of Bellica. Would be so easy if I could just call Milla Jovovich up, but she doesn’t know me. (Yet.)
  • I will probably be volunteering at the Vancouver International Writer’s Festival. You should come by and say hi to me. (I cannot tell you where I’ll be, but you should recognize me — I’m pretty distinctive. Fat with short blond hair. Easy.)

Other random things

  • My sewing machine got fixed. I finally buckled and downloaded the owner’s manual, like a smart person. I also fixed it by re-screwing it into the table. Heh. Screwing.
  • The older Singer is a bedside table in my boyfriend’s house currently.  (It wasn’t when I posted before because he needed to clean his room and he finally did that yesterday.)
  • I made my costumes for P&F and they were pretty awesome. I also made a skirt. In a day. What can I say — I’m good.
  • My sleep schedule is pretty messed up right now.
  • Burlesque workshop with the awesome Screaming Chickens on Friday! My mom registered me. I’m so excited.

So, yes. Stay tuned for Fiction Friday (probably more notes from the Revision Pile, but maybe not! Who knows?) and Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday (moved to this blog, for various reasons).

Oh geez, looks like I got a schedule without planning one. Welp. Time to add a page.