I found my first defaced library book the other day. Part of me is surprised that it took this long because I’ve been borrowing books from my local library since January. And I’ve certainly borrowed more than one controversial book in that time.
Here it is:
That’s page 16 of The Princess Diaries. If you can’t see the word beneath the scribble of blue ink, the word is “sucks.” Someone decided that “stinks” would be a more appropriate word choice. They either didn’t finish the book or thought that the inclusion of “ass” later in the book was acceptable since that wasn’t replaced.
Seeing that blue ink on the page snapped me out of the story. I live in a middle-class suburb of Boston and never considered that I’d find a vandalized book at the library. Censorship happening here didn’t cross my mind. The people who burned the Harry Potter series and who try to ban the Captain Underpants series don’t live here. At least I never met anyone who protested when the library got a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.
That being said, I don’t know whether a parent decided to make that little edit or it was an indignant teenage reader. It was probably someone who decided to read the book after The Princess Diaries movie came out in 2001. They liked the Disney movie and didn’t like how The Princess Diaries book had a swear word in it.
Readers have every right to avoid a book because they disagree with the subject matter, and parents can certainly stop their children from reading books that they don’t think are appropriate. That’s fine with me. I draw the line when people start to censor books, even if it’s simply blue pen in a public library book.
Humans are capable of decisions for themselves. They can decide whether they approve of a few swear words in a YA book or if they’d rather read that particular book. That’s as far as the discussion should go. I don’t need someone else butting into my bookshelves. People have different tastes, and that needs to be respected.
Have you found a public library book that’s been vandalized? Or have you seen book censorship in your community?