If you’re a Patreon subscriber or member of the new Chronicles of Avilésor Discord server, you may have noticed that I recently launched a new merch design on my Spring store (which now has a brand-new subdomain).
What inspired this new design?
Book bans and book burnings have been circulating the news cycles over the last few months. They’re nothing new, of course. People have been challenging books and petitioning to pull them out of schools for a long time. I still can’t wrap my head around the animosity toward Harry Potter (and must assume the people throwing it on a bonfire in the name of religious righteousness never actually read it).
As a fantasy author who explores touchy subjects (torture and abuse, government experimentation, sexual assault, alternative theories about life after death, suicide/mercy killing, people treated as sub-human, slavery, immigration policies, et cetera)… these conversations are hitting home for me.
But the thing is… books aren’t always supposed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Mine certainly don’t. And that’s okay, because they’re not meant to.
These last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over how I feel about book bans. I considered the “bad books” I read in school — 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kite Runner, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — those are the ones that come to mind. There may have been others that either didn’t stick with me or I didn’t realize were commonly on ban lists.
I considered how these books made me feel. Was I uncomfortable when I read them? Sure! But… that’s the point. They’re supposed to push us out of our comfort zone, challenge our thinking, evoke insightful conversations, and inspire empathy when we step into the shoes of a character confronting great injustice or evil. I was particularly uncomfortable with Huck Finn in school because of the language (I refused to say the n word aloud when reading it). But I understood why that word was there and how it was relevant, impactful, and historical.
Why? Because my teacher was there to explain the significance of these uncomfortable topics. I’m grateful that I read these difficult books in school with a trained professional who could offer support and answer tough questions about the content. I probably wouldn’t have read them on my own outside of school.
I believe I’m a better person for reading those books. Being uncomfortable made me more empathetic because I sympathized with these characters. I learned about injustice from a perspective that I, as a white middle-class American from a good home in the Midwest, hadn’t experienced firsthand. And, to my current distress, I learned to spot the warning signs of dystopia on the horizon. (Hint… banning and burning books is never a good sign of a healthy society.)
This new merch design was the fruit of my musings as I grappled with my thoughts from an author’s point of view, knowing full well that my own books will likely be challenged if they become more popular (I mean, come on… if Harry Potter and Twilight are so frequently challenged, all fantasy and fairy tales might as well be on banned lists).
To some, my new Read Banned Books design may seem like a political statement.
But really, it’s a personal statement.
This design tells the story of how, in my own words, banned books personally impacted me during my youth. I think being uncomfortable sometimes is a good thing. It makes us think critically, open our minds, and connect with our fellow human beings.
Books possess a unique magic that grants us those invaluable insights… but only if we let ourselves learn from those messages in the pages.