Posted by: chlost | September 23, 2011

Free to read, you and me

Today marks the start of a sad commemorative week: Banned Books Week.

It is hard for me to believe that in this day and age, there are still books which are subject to challenge and/or ban by schools, governments, and public libraries.

There is a concept known as “Freedom of Speech” in the United States. As a matter of fact, it is a cornerstone of this country, having been included in our founding documents.

Remember the First Amendment to the Constitution? It reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The history of freedom of speech goes much further back.  This concept has been accepted by civilized society long before the United States was a sparkle in the eye of a teacup.

And yet, books are still subject to censorship. Challenges are still raised. The most current example I recall was that of Salman Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses. Those involved with the production of the book were the subject of a fatwah, or death order by an Islamic leader. In fact, a translator of the book was stabbed to death, a publisher was shot, and another translator was seriously wounded. This was in 1991, folks.

The American Library Association has an excellent website regarding this issue. This includes a list of the classic books which have been banned and/or challenged, including the reasoning given for those actions. The list will astound you. Some of the books included on this list: Animal Farm, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Man, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, As I Lay Dying, A Farewell to Arms, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Even Captain Underpants, for God’s sake!

As a reader, I am appalled that these books, nearly all of which I have read, and most of which affected me deeply, have been banned. These are the books which were key to my development as a caring, independent-thinking citizen of the world. I took my access to these books for granted. I had no idea that there were students in the United States who were prohibited from reading these books. I also was not aware that there are still places in the United States where students are in danger of not being able to have access to some of these books.

As a blogger, I have become even more aware of the need for full opportunity to express my opinion and/or provide information.  This is a basic human right.

As part of Banned Books Week,  there is a youtube channel where celebrities and regular folks are submitting videos of themselves reading excerpts from a banned book.  Check it out. Submit a video.

Here’s an example to get you started:

We cannot take our freedom for granted.

As history has shown us, freedom is too easily taken away when it is not cherished.

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Responses

  1. Would re-writing Huckleberry Finn fit in the same category?

    • I’d say so. Especially as it is being re-written because some find the original language offensive.

  2. Well said. You are preaching to the choir here.

    • Thank goodness that there is a choir!

  3. You know that I’m in the choir! Gotta love those banned books! They provided me a wealth of education!!

  4. A friend published a list of banned books. After checking off some of my most favorite books, ever, I picked one I hadn’t read and ordered a used copy. I saw recently that Ambrose Bierce was the king of snark; that sounds right up my alley, so I’m about to make his acquaintance.

    Wuthering Heights? Really??

  5. Banned? In this modern, enlightened age? Appalling! Banning 1984 is being 1984. The banning of books, is closing off thought and knowledge. We must all stand and band together and make sure books and thoughts are available to everyone. Let’s sing loud, Choir!

  6. Adding my voice to the choir… That’s quite a list at the American Library Association website – thanks for the link!


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