This is week 2 of our Banned Book Author Guest Blog posts. This week we have Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade, out in October from Penguin Books. I, Stacey, read this book a few months back thanks to MundiMOMs ARC tour and I was drawn into the story and the mythology Andrea created.
We hope that our readers find Andrea’s following post educational and enlightening. And for those who have read Nightshade, I hope that Andrea’s post makes the mythology more alive for you as it did for me.
Love Sex Magic, or Why I Expect My Book Will Be Banned
Each year I anticipate Banned Books Weeks with a mixture of hopefulness and dread. Fruitful discussions abound and I’m reminded of how many thoughtful and intelligent readers and writers there are in the world. I’m also disheartened by hearing about the censorship experiences of writers I so deeply admire (Ellen Hopkins and Laurie Halse Anderson jump immediately to mind). This year my debut novel, Nightshade, leaves the safety of relative obscurity to sit on bookshelves, open to public appraisal. While I await the response to Nightshade, expecting both critique and hoping for praise, another question comes to mind: Will my book get banned?
I’m guessing the answer is yes. Why? My book is about witches and sex. Okay. It’s about a lot more than witches and sex, but I expect that witches and sex are what will get the book banned in certain places and detested by certain people. I didn’t write about witches and sex because paranormal is trendy and supposedly sex sells. I wrote about these topics because they’re what I study.
Yep, you heard that right. My ‘day job’ is working as a professor of history at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. My Ph.D. is in early modern history (1500-1800) and I specialize in the intersection of religion, sex, and violence. Witches play a big part in that mix, particularly in the time period my research focuses upon. Persecution of witches throughout history is in large part a means of suppressing women’s power, both politically and sexually. Emphasis on female sexuality was pivotal in witchcraft accusations, interrogations, and trials. Though done in the name of religious purges, the motivations for conducting witch hunts were often economic and social, not spiritual. Witch trials are only one part of a much larger struggle between old religions and the emerging dominance of Western Christendom. The cooptation of pagan holidays into major Christian holidays is one of the most unknown, yet most significant outcomes of that struggle. Christmas was set to overlap with Winter Solstice celebrations. The Puritans wouldn’t celebrate Christmas because they thought it was too pagan a holiday. Easter actually derives its name from the goddess Oestre and its date follows the celebration of spring and fertility in older religions (that’s why the eggs, bunnies, and chicks, folks!)
The conflict between institutional religions and witches is a long, bloody battle – and it still exists today. I was shocked a few years ago when I saw a documentary that showed children attending a religious camp wherein they were instructed that Harry Potter was a witch and therefore according to the Bible he should have been killed. Harry Potter is on banned books lists because of objections to its occult content.
I don’t offer this information as a critique of religion, or specifically of Christianity. My father is a minister and my mother a woman of profound faith. What worries me is the attempt to label books about witches, sex, and magic as overtly evil and keep them off shelves. To me it’s simply a continuation of a conflict ongoing for centuries.
It’s not evil. It’s history.