I feel like a kid at Christmas time, and this time it isn’t because Halloween is only 50 days away. No, friends, another important time for writers is coming first; the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week begins September 24th. Like the ALA, I’m going to start things off a little early to stir up some support for the freedom of speech and our right for Americans (and the world) to read what they want.
I know it sounds weird for a lover of books to get excited about Banned Books Week. Infuriated, yes. Frustrated, yes. Eager to take action, yes. But excited? Well, all I can say is that I have a twisted sense of humor and it amuses–and appalls–me to see which books people will challenge/ban and for what reasons. I’ll never get over the fact that Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is frequently challenged. It’s just too much.
I also enjoy considering the socio-political implications of the reasons for the challenges/bans. You can learn so much more about a person from what they fear than what they love, or at least what they profess to love. I’m typically already aware of the trends but it still amazes me to see how deeply the prejudice runs.
Most importantly, Banned Books Week gets people to actually talk about books. Which books have been challenged or banned? Why? Should books be banned? Shouldn’t libraries protect our right to read what we want? These questions and more encourage people to think not just about freedom but about the books these people are trying to keep us from. Quite contradictory to the challengers’ agenda, challenging or banning a book will make people more likely to read it, not less. After all, we want to know what there is to be offended by.
I will cover challenged/banned books, including the history of the issue in the United States, extensively during Banned Books Week. For now, I want to leave you with the ALA’s resources for raising awareness. Feel free to peruse them and join the conversation.
Do you think books should be challenged or banned? What part should libraries play in this struggle? If you live outside of America, how are book challenges and bans handled in your country? If you could, how would revise your country’s approach? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.