So, not all of the books have been banned per se, but all of them have been challenged by someone who felt he or she could tell the rest of the world what we can read. I cannot even begin to understand the hubris of someone who thinks their opinion should be the final word on any issue. And protecting children is a bad excuse, since I have small children myself.
What surprises me every year is the books that are being challenged. Take this script from an ALA produced public service announcement:
This list of three must have books for any public or school library in America makes the whole idea of challenging books indefensible in my opinion.Oh, and these books are regularly challenged here in America. We cannot ignore these warnings by thinking it is happening "somewhere else."Catcher in the Rye . . . Of Mice and Men . . . Harry Potter . . .
What's your favorite book? Chances are good that someone has tried to ban it. Celebrate YOUR freedom to read during Banned Books Week, September 25 to October 2.
Aren't convinced yet? Also from the ALA's promotional materials: "Ten most farfetched (silliest, irrational, illogical) reasons to ban a book."
- “Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” ( A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstien)
- “It caused a wave of rapes.” ( Arabian Nights, or Thousand and One Nights, anonymous)
- “If there is a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?” ( Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown)
- “Tarzan was ‘living in sin’ with Jane.” ( Tarzan, by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
- “It is a real ‘downer.’” ( Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank)
- “The basket carried by Little Red Riding Hood contained a bottle of wine, which condones the use of alcohol.” ( Little Red Riding Hood, by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm K. Grimm)
- “One bunny is white and the other is black and this ‘brainwashes’ readers into accepting miscegenation.” ( The Rabbit’s Wedding, by Garth Williams)
- “It is a religious book and public funds should not be used to purchase religious books.” ( Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, by Walter A. Elwell, ed.)
- “A female dog is called a bitch.” ( My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara)
- “An unofficial version of the story of Noah’s Ark will confuse children.” ( Many Waters, by Madeleine C. L’Engle)
The biggest concern I have these days though is the challenges from the left. For example, in this year's list, there is a description of the refusal of the German government to allow a republication of Hitler's Mein Kampf because it would "fuel support of far-right groups." Banning this book is dangerous. Germans (actually everyone) need to understand their history, the good and the bad, so that they are not destined to repeat it. And this is coming from a person (me) whose family had to flee Hitler. This is the same argument that comes up just about every year when people want to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it using disparaging words to describe African Americans. This argument is just as disturbing to me.
Personally, I am glad that librarians take the lead in exposing the scary truth about censorship in our modern age, but I am also saddened by the fact that we need to have this celebration of the freedom to read.
So today, in honor of Banned Books week, for the Monday Discussion, please share your thoughts and feelings about Banned Books Week, your opinions about censorship, and, if you have one, a story about someone trying to ban a book.
You can also follow and comment on past Monday Discussions here.