Sunday, September 28, 2008

Banned Books Week 2008

September 27th to October 4th is Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the right to read. Corey over at The Drowning Machine has an excellent post this week on Banned Books Week - I strongly encourage everyone to check it out; it's definitely worth your time. He points out that Banned Books Week is an observation, not a celebration. I totally agree that we OBSERVE the fact that people challenge books, but I also think we celebrate during this week. We celebrate our right to read - and often by reading those books others have tried to challenge.

In 2007 it is estimated that more than 400 books were "challenged" across the country. Here are the top 100 since the year 2000. This is unacceptable. That's not what our country is about. Each of us individually does not have the right to make choices for all the others, especially concerning what we read.

Do I think there are things out in print that we'd be better off without? Yes, I do. But it isn't my right to decide that for YOU. I decide it for myself, and I refrain from reading it - sometimes I don't refrain. Sometimes I read it to challenge myself - challenge myself to explain why the writer is off his/her rocker. But regardless, it is always MY choice - no one else's.

What if YOU decided to ban one book, magazine, newspaper, whatever? Then your neighbor has the right to ban as well. And while you may say, "this book is morally corrupt," that's according to YOUR morals. What happens when your neighbor's morals are in complete contrast to you, and he/she decides to ban a book YOU think is perfectly acceptable? Do you see where I'm going with this? You can't draw a line here, once one thing is banned, everything is fair game.

Maybe we should examine history on this point. The time period that stands out the strongest to me is World War II. What were the Nazis doing? Oh yeah, burning books! Preventing people from reading anything that contradicted their belief system. When you have to prevent people from reading what contradicts you, I don't think you have a very strong belief system.

You know many people want books banned because of their use of certain language...language that reflects the time and period in which the book was written. Just because language is offensive, doesn't mean it can't be used in a constructive manner, an attempt to express a message that needs to be expressed. Many times I believe people don't really read the books they challenge. They simply see a word that offends them and they are up in arms. I can't possibly imagine another reason why books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird or Where the Sidewalk Ends are challenged. And the irony of challenging Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World is just too much!

Challenging books - attempting to ban them - is wrong on every level. That is NOT the premise our country was founded on. It isn't even acceptable to inquire how to go about banning books (ahem).

This week I ask you to OBSERVE the fact that in this supposedly "enlightened" and "educated" country people are still attempting to challenge books. And then I ask you to celebrate your right to read. Read, Read, Read!


beauvallet September 28, 2008 at 2:06 PM  

Applause, applause! Well said, Jen!

Lesa September 29, 2008 at 9:44 PM  

Thank you, Jen. Very well said! Beauvallet is right. Celebrate your right to read!

Annie King October 4, 2008 at 8:11 PM  

I found your site after reading your comment on "Off The Page." You're a great spokesperson for the freedom to read!

Jen October 4, 2008 at 8:27 PM  

Wow Annie! Thank you for that great compliment. I'm very humbled. I guess I'm just passionate about my right to read! Thanks for stopping by!!

Annie King October 5, 2008 at 11:50 AM  

I'm the librarian in that exchange. I was happy to find another voice of reason!

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