*Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Review Direct
“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”
Banned Books Week begins this Saturday, September 24th. In an odd way, I look forward to this every year. It is easy to hear about a challenge here and a ban there throughout the year, get angry, and forget. Banned Books Week comes along and we are reminded of the sum of the parts.
When I worked at a bookstore, I always wondered why it was Banned Books Week, not, say, month. Not to ignore, but set aside more recently published books that deal with societal issues like Heather Had Two Mommies, the number of classic young adult and general fiction novels on the Frequently Challenged Books list is long. It is long enough that you could read one a day for a month. Think about it.
What if more people did that? What if people read a month’s worth of challenged books? The recent ban in Republic, MO of Slaughterhouse-Five, though frustrating (recently reversed, kind of), was more appalling to me because the board admitted that only one person making the decision had actually read the book.
Imagine that! The fear of the book was actually greater than the content.
The American Library Association started a new program this year encouraging physical and virtual Read-Ins of banned and challenged books. Anyone can participate. It goes to the heart of what I believe- the idea is more contentious than the content being argued.
Though public sentiment (both discouraging and encouraging) factors greatly into whether a book is banned or not, the real soldier in the fight for information are librarians and teachers. Thank them for their efforts they deserve it.
I will celebrate Banned Books Month this year by reading thirty challenged/banned classics. How will you celebrate the freedom to read?