Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banned Books Week: Harry Potter, Jesus, and Why You Can't Tell My Kid What to Read

A few days ago, my daughter and I both stumbled upon one of the most hilariously awful pieces of fan-fiction ever written. Fan-fiction is when someone, usually a teen fan, takes characters or situations that an author invented and either continues their story or writes an alternate version. Examples of this abound on the internet: the most prevalent, so far as I can tell, are Harry Potter versions in which Harry turns out to love a completely new character who very much resembles the author of the fan-fiction piece.

Fan-fiction is usually not copyright infringement because it's not being sold. It's usually awful, because we can't all be J.K. Rowling. It usually has an agenda, even if the agenda is merely, "But I wish Harry Potter would snog me!"

So the piece I stumbled upon--well, I'll just link to it, here--is a version of Harry Potter written for the sort of evangelical Christian who feels that exposure to the real Harry Potter will turn her darlings into actual witches, or, at the very least, away from God. This is my favorite part of chapter one:

Hagrid laughed wisely. "Evolution is a fairytale. You don't really believe that, do you?"
"Yes, I do!" Aunt Petunia screeched.
"Well then prove it!"
Aunt Petunia could only stare at him; and her big mouth hung open dumbly. Here she thought she was so educated; and always demanded that Christians prove what they believed in; but she couldn't even prove her own religion. It was then that Harry knew who the smart one here was!
"Tell me how to get to this heaven place!" Harry cried wistfully, clasping his hands together. Sometimes, the wisdom of little ones is really amazing. We think we grownups know it all; but then God speaks through the mouths of little ones; and shows us how we are all mortals struggling along the path of life. Humility.
"All you have to do is be saved. Do you want to be saved?"
"I do, I do!" Harry squealed, jumping up and down.
"Then pray the sinner's prayer!"
Aunt Petunia tried to stop him; but she was powerless against Harry's pure, innocent, holy energy. Soon, Harry had said the prayer. Hagrid beamed happily.
"You're a Christian now, Harry!" Hagrid cried proudly.
Harry smiled but then interrogated, "But how do I be a Christian? I don't know how!"
Hagrid grinned widely. "There is only one place to learn that-Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles!"

It's my favorite because it takes talent, really it does, to write this badly. "The wisdom of little ones is really amazing."  Bwwwahahahaha

Now, I would do whatever I could to keep my children, were they at young, impressionable ages, from reading this claptrap. One, because I want them to love reading, and no one can love this dreck. Two, because I want them to believe in evolution AND God. That's just how I roll. Three,  because I don't fear that their faith is so tenuous that the Harry Potter series will cause them to question it or that they would need it constantly reinforced by every piece of fiction they read.

In our house we love Harry Potter. In odd moments this summer my son reread most of the series.

I would guess, however, that viewpoints like the one which caused the woman to write the stuff above (Snopes.com says that it isn't clear whether she's serious or satirical, but I'm pretty sure, given that she's still posting new chapters, that she's serious) are also the ones that drive campaigns for books to be banned. And that's dangerous stuff.

When someone bans a book, they're not saying that they don't want their children reading it. All parents have that right. I myself prevented my kids from reading some of my own books, ones I myself wrote, until I thought they were old enough to handle them. If you think one of my books isn't appropriate for your kid--have at it. Tell them no. But don't lead a campaign to get it banned. When you ban a book, you're saying that you get to decide what is right for all kids--yours, and everyone else's. 

You have the right to believe whatever you like. You have the right to censor your child's reading material. You even have the right to write truly horrific fan-fiction.

You don't have the right to tell my kids what to read.