Saturday, September 25, 2010

Banned Books Week

Today is the start of Banned Books Week in the US. Every year the American Library Association holds this event to celebrate the freedom to read. You might think something like this wouldn't be necessary in the twenty-first century. After all, censorship, book banning, and book burning are all a thing of the past, right? Unfortunately, that's not true. Attempting to and succeeding at removing books from public schools and libraries is still happening with shocking frequency. It's all well and good for someone to decide they don't want to read a book because they find the content and/or themes objectionable, and to also make that decision for their children. But do you want others deciding what you and your family can have access to in a public library?

It's almost as if the universe wanted to bring extra attention to Banned Books Week this year. The book blogosphere fairly exploded last weekend with discussion of a man in Missouri whose children do not attend public school writing an opinion piece in his local paper advocating the removal of several books from local schools. One of those books is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This man included Speak - a book about a teenage girl dealing with rape - in a diatribe about books that he considered "soft pornography." This was the first time I'd ever heard of rape being considered pornography, which by definition is something "intended to cause sexual excitement." I never want to be alone in a room with a  man who thinks of rape like that. Ms. Anderson wrote a blog post about this and it's one of many you'll find. I write fiction that is meant purely for entertainment. I do not have the emotional strength it would take to immerse myself in the emotions needed to write a book like that, but I am deeply grateful there are authors out there that can do it. There's nothing to be gained from pretending horrible things like rape don't happen, and anything that might help a survivor in their recovery should be lauded. I have no idea why people think their children need protecting from books. If I were a parent, I would be far more concerned about protecting my kid from the man who finds rape titillating.

The ALA's website has some great info about what books have been challenged and why. The list of Banned and Challenged Classics is quite illustrious. The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Color Purple top that list. Catch-22, one of my old favorites, is also there. There's also a list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009. At the top: the Harry Potter series. I think that fact alone says more about the type of people who attempt to ban books than just about anything else that could be said. There's a PDF about the event that features information on the most banned/challenged books from May 2009-May 2010. The Stephenville, Texas school district has the distinction of banning not one but two paranormal Young Adult series that aren't even finished yet, which means they've banned books that haven't even been published yet. (That's the House of Night series and the Vampire Academy series.)

Take a look at these lists and see how many of them you've read. Even better, see what's on there you might like to read. I've got a copy of Kerouac's On The Road, number 31 on the classics list, that I never got around to reading. Banned Books Week might be the perfect time to take it off the shelf.

No comments: