For a few days now I’ve been seeing The Giver all over social media. I didn’t really care about it, because until I gave in just now and clicked a link to an article about it, I didn’t realize that I knew the work.
That’s because I read it in Hungarian translation (Az emlékek őre) back ages ago. The neighbor lady (a grade school teacher, by the way) always got me books like that for my birthday. Just now, in retrospect after this whole hysteria about The Giver do I realize just how educational many of those books were.
Actually The Giver didn’t really impress me when I read it. I was like what, 12? Younger even? It was so ambiguous, so vague, so fuzzy that I didn’t really understand what was going on. But even now, over a decade later, I can still clearly remember most of the story, and how disturbing it was. Because even as a kid it was clear that something is off, something is very off, in that ah-so-ideal world.
That is the foundation of my argument against banning books – ever (and especially in schools). Too violent? Sexually explicit? Offensive language? Religious? Unsuited for the age group? Give me a break.
Kids don’t need to pick up a book to see violence, explicit sexuality, hear offensive language or fanatic religious preaching. It’s everywhere around us, around the kids too, all the time. Just be happy that the kid picked up a book instead of that iPad you bought your 8-year-old to play Angry Birds!
Chances are, they won’t understand the topic, just how I didn’t really understand what was going on in The Giver. Worst case, they will ask their parents about what feels so off about it. Tough luck when said parent hasn’t held a book in their hands for decades.
On the slip of The Giver’s translation (at least the edition I had) it was compared to Orwell’s 1984. Needless to say, it wasn’t much longer until I finished that too – then with a much more clear idea of what’s wrong.
I can’t not find it ironic how parents are trying to “protect” their kids from the “bad influence” of a book that is a bitter criticism of being over-protective. Just read it and realize that you’re doing just what is being (rightly) antagonized in the book. Or maybe you’ve already realized that and that’s why you hate on it.