Why We Need Banned Book Week
Back in 1981, while I was in college, my peers and I were all atwitter about the news that a book Our Bodies our Selves, written by a women’s college collective, was being banned for documenting accurate and detailed information about female health and reproductive systems.
Of course we ran right out, bought a copy, gathered around in the student lounge and read through it.
Ever since that time, I’ve always tried to make it a point of checking out the banned book lists to find the best reading.
And I’m not alone. For the last three decades, the American Library Association has dedicated the last week of September as Banned Books Week, a time when book aficionados celebrate the First Amendment freedom to read. The week also calls attention to why it is important that we as a society encourage freedom of thought, creative exchange of ideas and the damage that can be done when thoughts are limited.
Books, whether hard copies, or ereads, have always been held precious in my family. As a young child I recall spending huge amounts of time in the library. I have imparted that to my children and now my grandchildren. Books are a valuable commodity which must be cherished and preserved, gathered and guarded.
As much as free public education is a cornerstone of our country, free access to books, regardless of their content, is important. And when that is jeopardized, the very foundation of our country is jeopardized.
And yet, even as we venture into the future’s brave new world, more and more people are trying to restrict access to books on all sorts of, and sometimes contradictory, grounds.
And while parents should censor inappropriate reading materials from small children, at what point do we decide what’s inappropriate. And if a book is banned from a library, is that unconstitutional? OR is censorship just the action of small minded people afraid of ideas and thoughts that differ from their own.
I could read Mine Kamp by Adolph Hitler and it wouldn’t make me a Nazi any more than reading Hustler would make me a male.
Censorship by individuals who fight to keep ideas opposite their own from others seems to indicate a fear that in the face of competition, their ideas won’t hold up.
To clarify that point, below are some of the most recent attempts to ban books include:
The dictionary – too many bad words.
Grapes of Wrath – adult language and situations. Isn’t that what adult fiction is all about.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. -12 states including my home state of Illinois had police associations who attempted to remove the book because it portrayed police officers as pigs. No mention was made that all the characters in the children’s book were animals. Only the pigs were an issue.
Beloved – Nothing like banning a Nobel Prize Winning author to shake things up.
Brown Bear Brown Bear: what do you see? One of the two authors had the bad luck to be named after a Marxist philosopher and it didn’t occur to anyone that there could be more than one person with that name.
James and the Giant Peach was accused of obscene and violence. I must have missed that when I saw the movie with my kids.
The Diary of Anne Frank included sexually explicit and homosexual themes. Apparently the hiding out from murder like millions of other Jews wasn’t an issue though.
Little Women – Ok. I give up.
For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. The first was banned for sexual content, and second because it was deemed pro communist. Written by the same guy who hung out in Cuba prior to Castro’s reign. And in neither case was the violence of war offensive to the censors.
Light in the Attic because it promotes disrespect horror and violence. It’s that what horror stories are supposed to do.
And A Wrinkle in Time because it’s a tale of the battle of good and evil and people didn’t want their children exposed to religious arguments. And this from the same folks who challenged Harry Potter for promoting magic which is akin to demon worship. Really, people, take a position.
And lastly, the list of the most commonly challenged books in the United States and their authors as listed by the American Library Association.
Arming America Michael Bellasiles
Arizona Kid Ron Koertge
Bumps in the Night Harry Allard
Now get to the book store or local library or fire up your ereader and get started.
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