The week of September 29 through October 6, 2007, marks the 26th anniversary of Banned Books Week, The American Library Association's annual celebration of the freedom to read.
This annual event serves to remind Americans not to take for granted their precious freedom to express one's opinions, even or perhaps especially when those opinions are unorthodox or unpopular. Libraries are deeply committed to the concept of Intellectual Freedom which includes both the right to believe what you choose and to express those beliefs and to have unrestricted access to information and ideas, regardless of the viewpoints expressed or the medium through which they are communicated.
If you desire, mention your favorite banned books in the guestbook of my friend Alan's blog page by 5pm Pacific Time on Sunday September 30th and he will include them in Monday's post "Banned Books Chosen By Readers Of This Blog". Choose your ten from the list of most frequently challenged books or Google "banned books" and you'll be amazed at how many lists you find!
In this day and age, when our freedoms are being whittled away, bit by bit, piece by piece, it's nice to think about how widespread censorship could really go.
I found a list of lots of banned books and chose some of my own in no particular order. I think it's good to remind ourselves of what people who want to censor our reading material
"I know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou has been questioned because of the graphic depiction of a rape. Must we now sugar coat everything? Is truth too offensive to allowed on our bookshelves? Should we not know that magnificent people can rise from the ashes of terrible, traumatic circumstances? The book has been removed from the required reading list in the Annapolis, MD school system.
"Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck, which is said to contain "racial slurs, profanity, violence and does not represent traditional values" The book is a beautiful story of friendship and platonic love between men, the caring of one for the other. What a crime it would be if this story were to be banned. (My very favorite Steinbeck book, "East of Eden" is also on a banned list.)
"Blubber" and "Are you There, God, It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume. I read all of the books Blume had written at the time that our kids discovered them because there was such controversy surrounding them. Blume treats subjects that kids deal with every day (in the first book, weight problems, in the second going through puberty, specifically getting your first period) in an open, frank, and honest way that appeals to kids. I'm sure many a child or young adult has felt better about him/herself after reading her books.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. What is it with the classics? There are those would would ban this book because of its honest depiction of race relations and, again, description of a rape. You don't make a lasting impression by shying away from difficult subjects. There is a reason why this is a treasured book (and why there is a statue in honor of Attacus Finch erected on the grounds of the Ulster County Courthouse in New York).
"Where's Waldo" Apparently this book is on the list because somewhere in one of the drawings, if you look hard enough, you can find a topless woman.
See her? Is this a reason to ban a book??? How sick a society are we anyway?
"Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. I don't know why this one is banned. Magnificent historical novel of the building of a cathedral in England. Perhaps too much truth involved in the double-dealing of the clergy? I read it before going to tour Salisbury Cathedral and it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of that edifice and my understanding of the whole idea of towns growing up around the building of cathedrals or monestaries.
The state of Virginia wanted to ban "Ann Frank" because of sexually explicit passages (anybody remember those?) and the state of Alabama wanted it be banned because it was "a real downer." (From Forbidden Library: Banned & Challenged Books). Of course those two particular challenges were made in the 1980s. I hope we have progressed a little since then!
My favorite story from that site, though is the banning of The Bible: "William Tyndale, who partially completed translating the Bible into English, was captured, strangled, and burned at the stake (1536) by opponents of the movement to translate the bible into the vernacular. Beginning around 1830, "family friendly" bibles, including Noah Webster's version (1833) began to appear which had excised passages considered to be indelicate."
I guess you can find someone to object to everything if you search hard enough.
Go find a good banned book and flaunt your enjoyment of it!