I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 15, 2022
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard about the group called Moms for Liberty. Here in Tennessee and across the country, the conservative group is trying to ban ‘inappropriate’ books from school libraries and curriculums. Their hit list includes texts about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Bridges, books about the LGBTQ+ experience, and books that reference sex, drugs, or alcohol.
Understandably, a whole lot of people out there are upset by the group’s book banning fervor, but I will say these moms are absolutely right about one thing: Books are dangerous. They can absolutely alter a kid’s perspective and even change the course of their life. I should know — I was one of them.
Growing up, I could have been a Moms for Liberty poster child. My family checked all their boxes: White. Middle class. Christian. Conservative. Republican. I attended church and youth group every Sunday. I went to a Christian school.
I also read everything I could get my hands on.
With no Internet or cable television to distract me, I read all day, every day, so I couldn’t afford to be picky. After tearing through the stack I picked up from the library once a week (damn their ten-book limit!), I went through my brother’s set of Hardy Boys mysteries and his Boy Scout Handbook, my grandmother’s collection of Grace Livingston Hill romances and Dale Evans Rogers memoirs, and even my mom’s stacks of Architectural Digest and Southern Accents. At ten, I got my hands on copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind — Both novels rocked my world, in very different ways. Slavery and segregation were hard for me to comprehend and I needed to know more about what had happened. This resulted in an obsession with books about people whose lives were different from mine. Over the next several years, I devoured books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Night, by Elie Wiesel. Lakota Woman. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. The House on Mango Street. The Color Purple. 100 Years of Solitude. The Joy Luck Club. The Bluest Eye.
Books allowed me to laugh with women who’d lived 100 years before I was born and cry with a Black family whose beloved son was killed by a white mob. Books showed me firsthand the horrors of the Holocaust and the strength and magic of family in Latin America. Books convinced me that gay men and women were no more sinister or sinful than I was. Books made me understand that despite humans’ differences, we all shared many of the same emotions, thoughts, dreams, and desires.
Books didn’t tell me how to think; they simply gave me more information — information I wasn’t necessarily getting from the people in my community. Sometimes I agreed with what I was reading, sometimes I didn’t. Books helped me form an educated opinion.
They also made me feel a deep need to examine my core beliefs. As a teenager, I was constantly questioning my teachers, my parents, and my church leaders. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful; I simply wanted to know why the adults I trusted believed what they did. I still couldn’t understand why my community tried so hard to keep out people with diverse backgrounds, or how my pastor could be so absolutely certain that his theology was the absolute truth. I wanted to hear everyone’s reasoning, and then decide for myself what I believed.
But to many adults in my cookie cutter world, I suppose I became dangerous. I was asking questions they really didn’t want to answer. I still remember when a pastor from my church met with my parents to express concern about my ‘walk with Jesus,’ because of the questions I had been asking. I was shocked by his reaction. How was I supposed to believe what I did if I didn’t know why I believed it? How could I defend the faith I had if I didn’t take the time to examine the counterargument?
Fortunately, when adults failed me, I had books to help sort it all out.
My life followed a different trajectory than it would have if I hadn’t read so much as a kid. My obsession with learning about other people’s lives and perspectives led to a career as a reporter and writer. Books made me better at my reporting job because they taught me that it’s worthwhile to try and understand everyone’s point of view before making a judgement. Books gave me the courage to start a blog that ended up changing my life by teaching me the value of a single voice, even when it’s coming from someone who feels like the last person anyone would want to listen to. Books instilled a lifelong curiosity in me, a hunger for travel and new experiences, and an open-mindedness that’s helped me to at least try to have empathy and compassion for those I disagree with in this time of political turmoil.
The Moms for Liberty and other book banning groups want to make sure that only ‘safe’ books are available in schools — Books that never make white people seem like the bad guys. Books that don’t acknowledge the reality that kids today have to navigate some pretty awful things, like drugs and alcohol and sexual predators. Books that don’t reassure kids that they’re normal and okay even when it seems like their feelings and preferences don’t align with those of the people around them. Safe books, I suppose, lead to safe kids who don’t question what the adults in their lives are telling them.
I say bring on the dangerous books, the ones filled with a rich array of perspectives and experiences. If you are lucky enough to have a child who enjoys reading, rest assured they can handle books about people with different beliefs and backgrounds. I personally believe moms should be a whole lot more concerned about what their kids are seeing on social apps and the Internet than what they may or may not be reading in their school library. If these Moms truly are for Liberty, they should give kids the freedom to expand their horizons through books. Yes, books can absolutely make children dangerous — but in the best possible way.