In case you’ve missed it, Banned Books Week is in full effect, and October is anti-bullying month. On Saturday, I am holding my release party for Tap Out at a local MMA gym. So how are these three disparate events connected?
Banning books is a small-minded act, as is bullying. Both seek to destroy. And they succeed. Those that rally about books that are too offensive for our eyes get attention and books are not purchased, are not put on shelves, and we the readers lose out. Bullies are master manipulators, can be violent and coercive, and typically get their way. How can you fight such ignorance or such fear or such systematic intolerance? Not with aggression but with subversion.
As a teen I actively sought books that were banned because I wanted to better understand society. I never wanted anyone to distill the truth for me, to hide the lives beyond my own. To quote Stephen King: “The world has teeth…” It does and I have never been afraid to be bitten by the jaws of a novel or non-fiction. Both are infinitely safer than learning first hand.
I wish could claim that I was never a bully. I cannot. I was never strong enough to subvert and resist the temptation that exerts itself on an adolescent. I am positive that I manipulated and coerced, and at times made people feel horrible. Not often. But isn’t once enough? I am not proud of that, but I admit it and at least that suggests something in my character. Possibly I learned through reading just who I was, and changed. I hope so, because as a parent and as a teacher I actively work to keep bullying at bay. I know too much not to.
Which is why I believe I wrote Tap Out. This novel will certainly be banned. It cuts too close, bushes too abruptly and too unapologetically against the undesirable aspects of our contemporary society. Good. I owe it to anyone remotely close to such an environment in which Tony lives. I owe it to all who have no clue that such a life exists. I owe it to society to expose the humanity within even the darkest of characters. Call it my penance. Call it my duty. Possibly my fate after all that dark reading. Whatever the case, I’m proud to be in the mix, to have my work find the hands of another teen out there, willing to seek, and one who is hopefully stronger than I was. One who is willing to fight and to stand alone if needed. One who is subversive enough.
This is what and who I am celebrating on Saturday: the hope for change and the belief in the strength of the individual.