This is Banned Books Week. (September 24-October 1, 2011) First off, I want to mention that I have items for sale in my Cafe Press store for those who want to make a point of Banned Books Week. You can find my shop at: http://www.cafepress.com/readerwoman Other cool stuff there too for gifts or just because. (The photo on the left is my creation, available on tee-shirts etc.)
Okay. Promotion time over. In some ways, Banned Books have somehow lost their impetus, just as the Woman’s Liberation Movement has. The current generations (and yes, dear children, and others in the range of 35 or so and under!) that I know don’t “Get” what the whole Banned Book focus is. But it is ongoing, present in education, government and public policy in our lives today. Here is a bit of history.
Banned Books Week was started by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association. The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world and was founded in 1876. One of ALA’s main mission points is to “ensure access for all” and Banned Books Week takes this mission at its word. More specifically, it was founded in 1982 by prominent First Amendment and library activist Judith Krug. It is internationally celebrated as well as nationally respected – Banned Books Week not only encourages readers to examine challenged literary works, but also promotes intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstores. Its goal is “to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.”
There is some serious opposition to Banned Books Week, for as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby noted, “…the overwhelming number of books on the list were books that were simply challenged (primarily by parents for violence, language, sexuality, or age-appropriateness), not actually removed.” Parents do have the right to control, at least to some extent, the behaviors and reading habits of their minor children, however wrong (shall we say pig-headed?) some of us may feel their attitudes are. In addition, many of those against Banned Books Week are conservative parents, and organizations such as Focus on the Family who feel that libraries, particularly school libraries, do not have the right to promote “alternate” (i.e. LGBT platforms) forms of lifestyles to their children. Most of these objections are of a religious or sexual nature.
It must be said that most of the books in question are “challenged” and never banned; but the alliterative eye-catching quality of ‘banned books,’ beats ‘challenged books‘ cold! And there are books banned from school libraries, based solely on parental protest. An interesting note – last year (2010) in September, the U.S. Department of Defense overrode the Army’s January approval for publication of a memoir by Army Reserve Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer called Operation Dark Heart. The DOD then purchased and destroyed all 9,500 first edition copies citing concerns that it contained classified information which could damage the integrity of U.S. National Security. The publisher, St. Martin’s Press, in conjunction with the DOD created a censored second edition; which contains blackened out words, lines, paragraphs, and even portions of the index.
Other countries, too, have banned American books – there are many examples – but I will cite but one: Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India
Knopf Banned in parts of India (2011). A Santa Cruz, Calif. educational organization, Foundation for Excellence, canceled an event planned in honor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author (Joseph Lelveld). The foundation provides scholarships for students
in India and canceled the event after the biography hinted a homosexual relationship between Gadhi and a German named Hermann Kallenbach. Source: ALA site, July 2011. You can find more banned/challenged books on this year’s list(in PDF format) at the ALA site.
However you personally feel about Banning (or Challenging) Books, the fact remains that the choice is individual. I have not read all of the banned books, or even most of them, although I am fully aware of the incidents in current reading that have created bans. (Such as Harry Potter!) Should parents control their children’s reading? My take on that is that banning anything, whether book, or date, or clothing style, makes it that much more attractive. Using “because I said so,” as a reason to implement and/or impose your own standards and beliefs on your child seems to be asking for trouble. If you have brought your children up to be thinking, responsive, reasonable human beings, then discussion and give-and-take should be part of your parental teaching style. Banning books is not the way to go! Find out more. See what your school district is doing. Read about this year’s banned/challenged books, and decide for yourself how important this freedom is! Comment below about any of your experiences with banned books, and how you personally handle those books in your home. Think. Express. Do.