My mother was a good Catholic, who wouldn't let her children read dirty books. She understood the power of words, and believed sleazy books would warp our young minds.
Poor Mom never understood that banned books were irresistible. The more she worked to keep a book away from us, the more we wanted to read it.
Take "Peyton Place," by Grace Metalious. The very name means a small community with scandalous secrets. "Peyton Place" was porn when it debuted in 1956 – and continued to shock housewives for nearly four decades. The shameless book became a movie, a TV series, and spawned several TV movies.
Copies of this forbidden paperback were tucked into bedside night stands and stashed in linen closets. Women discussed it in whispers over coffee in their homes. When I was a teenager, Mom hid a "Peyton Place" paperback in her bedroom. She read it in the afternoon, before she made dinner for her husband and noisy kids.
To make sure my brother and I didn't read this disgraceful book, Mom read a page, ripped it up and tossed it in her wicker wastebasket. One of my brother's chores was taking out the trash. He hid the torn pages of "Peyton Place" in his basement bedroom, where we pieced them together and read it.
This was the book whose title was only mentioned in whispers?
Sure, it had abortion, adultery, incest and murder. But our neighborhood was a real Peyton Place, where lonely housewives drowned their boredom in booze, had sex with other women's husbands, even seduced teen-aged boys. Even as kids, we knew it was odd when Mrs. Baker had sixteen-year-old Jimmy doing "chores" five days a week in her house, especially when she had a husband. We also noticed when Mrs. James and Mr. Thomas were at a party, they'd disappear for a while. And everyone gossiped when seventeen-year-old Melinda went to visit her aunt in Michigan for six months – in the winter.
The real lure of "Peyton Place" was that it was banned. Otherwise, I doubt if we would have bothered piecing together all those pages for a so-so story.
This week – September 25 to October 1 – is Banned Books Week. The top ten banned books include "Fifty Shades of Grey," and "I Am Jazz," the true story of a transgender teen. Read the whole list here: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek .
This list is proof that banning books doesn't work. Not only are the banned books bestsellers, but their annual Banned Books Week display comes with a buy link.
Fight for your right to read banned books. And fight against censorship.
And parents, remember my story next time you're tempted to ban books. You don't want your kid to turn out like me, do you?