This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, a celebration of our “Right to Read.” Supported by many national organizations, it calls attention to attempts to “protect” us from reading materials that some people find offensive. Jean M. Auel’s “Earth’s Children” series is an example of the kind of books that are challenged regularly by those who wish to prevent the pollution of our minds.
Ms. Auel’s books are thick. The language is sophisticated. The descriptions draw for us a vivid picture of the land and people of prehistoric times. The amount of research she must have undertaken to be able to bring her characters to life and depict their day to day existence is mind-blowing. Unfortunately, in addition to hunting, gathering, fighting, and dying, her characters also procreate. To demonstrate this she, rather matter-of-factually, depicts the sex act. It is part of their lives. It is usually a simple act between consenting adults, but rape was a fact of life and she doesn’t shrink from the facts. Unfortunately, there are people out there who find this honesty disturbing. When I saw her series on the list, I expected to find that the banning came as a protest by those who don’t believe in evolution. However, it turns out, they simply didn’t like the fact that her characters engaged in sexual acts. The sexual scenes in these books are sometimes graphic, but they aren’t gratuitous. They are simply part of the story and they take up a very small percentage of the pages.
There are six books in the series now and she doesn’t pump them out once a year. Each one is carefully researched and consistent with the world she created in “The Clan of the Cave Bear” in 1980. Admittedly, there is no way for the average person to know how accurate her version of prehistoric times may be. However, a few hours spent wandering through a good Natural History Museum will demonstrate the depth of her attention to detail.
The “Earth’s Children” series brings our roots to life in a way that dry textbooks on Anthropology can never do. The complex plot lines and characters provide much more than a few scenes of sexual activity. Exercise your right to read, explore the world of our ancestors and enjoy Ms. Auel’s excellent story telling skills. If you haven’t read any of these excellent books, pick one up at your local library today. Travel back in time with Ayla, the main character of the series, as she grows and develops from a frightened child to a mature mother and leader of her tribe.
For more information on Banned Books Week and reviews of other wonderful books on the Banned Books list visit Book Journey where many writers and readers are celebrating our freedom to read whatever takes our fancy.