There are weeks devoted to a variety of causes, but September 27 to October 4 “celebrates” Banned Books Week. The festivities are brought to you by the American Library Association along with other bookish groups and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
To prepare for the week-long event, order your BBW kits now. This includes three posters, a set of bookmarks, a list of banned books, and a button that announces “I Read Banned Books.”
What notorious books are we talking about? Anything by Mark Twain and Stephen King are suspect. Keep the Judy Blume books out of young hands. Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Alice Walker (The Color Purple) made the list.
Throughout the 20th century, many books were challenged, yet escaped banning. Maybe you've read some of them: To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, The Sun Also Rises, Catch-22, Brave New World, Gone With the Wind, and Lord of the Rings. Shame on you! 420 books were added to the list last year. Harry Potter is at the top of the list.
So, who's trying to ban all these books? No finger pointing, please (although parents lead the pack). Who is fighting to keep these books on the shelf? People who believe in intellectual freedom and the right to read anything they darn well please.
I picked up this quote on the Banned Books Site from a former editor of the LA Times. Phil Kerby said “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.” Opps. Am I allowed to use the “S” word in a public newspaper?
When I was a junior at Lemoore High School, I got a chance to work in the library. While shelving books may not have been every teenager's dream job, I loved working in the stacks. One day I found a small shelf of books hidden in the room where damaged books were kept.
“Why is Madam Bovary back here?” I asked the librarian. “It looks fine. I'll put it back on the shelf.”
She stopped me. “We can't put it out,” she explained. “It might get in the wrong hands.”
This was news to me. I'd heard of the book, but I'd never seen a copy. I lived a pretty sheltered life. Still, I knew it was considered great literature. So, I did the logical thing. I asked if I could check it out.
She scrutinized me and apparently I passed muster. “You're mature enough to read it,” she said, and gave me the book. It was all rather cloak and dagger. I never even checked it out.
I tried hard to find the “dirty parts” and failed miserably. It was a tough read for a 16 year-old. Lots of French society and outdated manners. Okay, so Bovary had an affair. I understood the plot and found it boring. There was more going on in a Harlequin romance.
At about the same age, I read Fahrenheit 451. That happens to be the temperature that books burn. I guess that's one solution to ensure censorship. The other is to stop writers like me from exploring topics that make others uncomfortable. We have a knack, perhaps a drive, to write what we think. Take our pens and computers away. Refuse to publish our works. Perform a literary lobotomy on creativity.
Or, better yet, just close the book that offends you. Put it back on the shelf and simply walk away.