As the American Library Association is fond of pointing out, in the US the last week of September is set aside to celebrate the importance of free and open information, and that many books that provoke controversy are still available.
Many works were lost during the Nazi regime, and going back even farther, at the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria. Most of this can be attributed to attempts by one conquering group to control another, by restricting what they are allowed to read and to think.
A book-lovers nightmare, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451describes a totalitarian regime that employs firemen not to put out fires, but to set them. The fuel? Books. ALL books.
Ideas and creative thinking are deemed dangerous, and society is controlled by incessant and vapid television programming and medication. So far-fetched! That could never happen NOW!
Yes, it could. Read this article from CBC News.
These days, most objections to a book are for excessive bad language, sexual themes or situations, or violence. Some believe that if it offends them, then it must be offensive to everyone. Access to material must be controlled, because what if a tightly-regimented young person comes into contact with a new idea? This will not do.
Relax, folks. Schools and libraries know what they’re doing, I promise you. If they included something you’re not sure about, why not take a look at it yourself before you erupt in fury? I’ve heard a lot of people complain about a book or film they never read or saw. How do you know if there is a problem unless you check it out?
Children’s author Betty Miles wrote a book called Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book, a story about two classmates who inadvertently create controversy when they read a picture book about puppy birth to younger children. It illustrates beautifully how crazy parents can get when their children are exposed to certain subjects.
My take? Start teaching kids young. Birth and death are part of life. People are different-looking and act different sometimes, but underneath we’re all pretty much the same. I think it’s wrong to keep information from anyone.
Granted, I’m not talking about subjects that are beyond a young kid’s understanding, or adult-oriented. There’s no need to shove too much crazy at them too soon. But we don’t give them enough credit–kids are pretty smart. And they can spot a hypocrisy faster than anyone on the planet.
We have brains for a reason. Without them, we wouldn’t have antibiotics, the Hubble telescope, or laundry detergent that removes grass stains. There would be no medical advances, no Harry Potter series (a frequent entry on the banned books lists), and no smartphones. Yeah, that one would hit you were you live.
Interestingly enough, the captcha code for that image download was “arbitrary rightwit.” Sounds a bit like an Elizabethan insult. I think it’s an apt description of those who are determined to control other people’s reading, don’t you?
I dearly hope that someday I write a book that someone wants to ban. Not for gratuitous sex, blood, or violence, but one that challenges people to think a bit. Some people don’t like to do that. I have a couple of ideas. Perhaps you’ll see me on that list someday.
When you choose a book to read this week, make sure it’s one from the Frequently Challenged Books list. Keep knowledge accessible to everyone. Visit and support your local library today!
- Fifty Shades joins list of banned books (smh.com.au)
- No sex please, we’re American – Banned Books Week turns 30 (guardian.co.uk)
- Celebrate the Freedom to Read with Banned Books Week (stulibrary.wordpress.com)
- Eastern Iowa libraries plan programs, displays for Banned Books week (thegazette.com)