this is a post in response, and in support of laurie halse anderson's censorship post. (You don't need to read the first post to understand this one, but it's definizzie helpful.
There is a certain passage in Samantha Schutz's I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY that felt as if she had pulled my own deepest fears and then, with the skill of a writer, told me exactly what to do to combat them.
I had (have) panic attacks. The first time I thought I was going to die. After that they got easier; I knew what was happening. But still they came, even after I read DON'T PANIC and learned about the fight-or-flight emergency response. I could (can) control my breathing, my reactions, but I couldn't (can't) always stop them from happening.
I'm at school and something, some tiny little thing, sets off the anxiety inside of me. It's a dark room, the only light coming from the art projector, and I'm in the first row but it doesn't matter. I have to get out of there. I'm spinning, dizzy, so much dizzier than I normally get, and my eyesight is fuzzy. My heart -- I feel it beating in my chest -- is fine. It's the rest of me that's out of whack.
Another time I'm at home. At the grocery store. Doing schoolwork. Watching television. And they keep coming, over and over, all the time and then, later, less frequently. Finally much less frequently. They get smaller, less terrifying. But then a big one will come and, all over again, knock me over.
I'm dying. I'm going crazy. Oh gosh, what is wrong with me?
And then I read this book, about a girl dealing with anxiety disorder, and so many things started to feel like they might be okay. Like maybe I wasn't completely insane, maybe this wouldn't last forever, maybe I wasn't the only crazy person. This book? The particular passage in this book?
It didn't save my life, but it saved me. It showed me (because in truth, I had forgotten) that I was braver, stronger than the anxiety. That my life was bigger than the panicked thoughts in my head, the blurred vision and shaking hands. It reminded me, again and again, that I had been through worse and I would get through this and I would not give up, because whatever insanity I was feeling inside would not win.
Books do that. They help us when we forget how to help ourselves. For me, it was I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY. For others it might be SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or TWENTY BOY SUMMER, by Sarah Ockler, or any one of hundreds of brilliant, insightful books with a thimble full of questionable material in them. I don't think that every book is an incredible beacon of light and hope, and I know if I had children there would be some books I might not want them to read. But I also know that, if I were a parent, I would want to be the one making those decisions, and I wouldn't want a book that might be the exact right thing for my child to be pulled from library shelves because it mentions sex, or drugs, or cussing. Looking at what's wrong in a book, or what you don't agree with, is an incredibly narrow viewpoint. Look at the whole book. Look at what it is, what it says, not just what you're afraid it might be saying.