Read With The Safety Turned Off

I have a bone to pick.

In a conversation not long ago the subject of trigger warnings arose.

If you aren’t familiar, trigger warnings are warnings that give you a “heads-up” as to what a book contains. These triggers are things or subjects that may upset or possibly offend a perspective reader.

Now before you jump all over me, let me state a partial exception – books for children. I understand that books may contain subject matter that you feel is too mature in content or language. I understand these concerns and they are definitely valid. The reason I stated this exception as only partial is this: if your child is at the skill level to read books that contain more mature content (that you feel they may not be ready for), there is a chance that they may be able to also readily discuss these subjects with you on a more mature level. You may not be ready for these conversations, but these books may be the perfect avenue for some authentically great communication that might not otherwise have come up either at all or not until much later. Every parent obviously makes the call here, and these are just my own thoughts.

Now that all of that has been said, the rest of this post pertains to adults.

The back of a book or the cover flap of a dust jacket is where a book synopsis is typically found. Other times, you may go online to places like Goodreads or Amazon to find this information. Another source may be a friend who tells you about it and follows up with a “must-read”, a “steer clear”, or somewhere in the middle.

To me, the above options are plenty. There have even been times when I pick up a book without reading any kind of synopsis, just for the heck of it.

Honestly I had never even heard of trigger warnings for books until the aforementioned conversation. Now I feel like I am seeing more and more books or posts prefaced by these.

Have we become so worried that someone will be offended or upset by a book that specific details have to be spelled out? I do understand that life sometimes deals a raw hand and maybe you are dealing with something horrible. And maybe you don’t or aren’t ready to read something because it’s a little too close to home-but that’s what book friends are for. They are the absolute perfect source to say, “Hey, you may want to skip over that for now or forever.” What’s not perfect is assuming the masses want that labeled across everything they read. Not to say something of the sordid or intense in nature is a spoiler, but in a way, it sort of is. And we all know that spoilers tend to piss people off.

So the books in the picture, Gone With the Wind, Lolita, Lonesome Dove, and The Prince of Tides deal with some pretty heavy subjects. But I can read the back and get a pretty good idea of whether or not I want to read it or not.

Lonesome Dove is an old western. It goes without saying, or at least I thought it did that Indians and Mexicans will probably be referred to in negative ways. Does it make it right, no, of course not. On the same note, am I offended by it, should I be? No and no. It’s a book. Stop taking everything personal or as if you have a personal stake in it all. You don’t, none of us do. These references were true to the time they were written in, therefore since LD is more or less realistic fiction they should rightfully be there. It’s part of history whether you like it or not, not whether you are offended or not.

We as readers are some of the most open-minded people, and because of this it amazes me that trigger warnings are a thing. That labels have to further specify what the synopsis apparently did not do a good enough job of. Read with abandon, read to gain insight and knowledge, read to understand change or to make change happen. But read the book and then decide, don’t let a label cheat you out of what could be something great.

We don’t need labels or warnings to assume we are going to be upset or offended by every blessed thing. We are adults and we don’t reside in bubbles. We aren’t made of glass and our minds are usually pretty discerning, so remember that next time you see a trigger warning. Skip over it and let your own beautiful mind decide and then let that be enough.

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” – Sherman Alexie

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