Friday, September 27, 2013

Read a Banned Book...this is the week for it

If you follow along here at all, you know that I love to read. You also might know, because I'm pretty sure I've written about it before around here, that I had the luxury of parents who did not censor what I read. Ever. Even when I was a little kid. If I wanted to read something, I was allowed to read it.

Sometimes, if it was a book that my parents thought was maybe too mature for me, they would talk with me (notice that I said "with me", not "to me") about it. But they never said, "No. You cannot read that."

I was not quite so lucky at the library when I was young. Around the time I was in about sixth through around eighth grade, there were several books that the library ladies would not let me check out so that I could read them, despite the fact that I had been checking books out of the adult (as opposed to the children's) section of the library since I was in second grade. They were acting as censors.

I suppose I could have asked my parents to check the books out for me, but I was stubborn. So, I read those books - Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, Richard Hooker's M*A*S*H, and Charles Webb's The Graduate come immediately to mind as books I originally read during that time - sitting in the library, off in a corner where one of the library ladies wouldn't find me and scold me or try to take the books away.

My experiences in trying to read those books is how I became familiar with the real-world effects of book censorship. I thought it was wrong then and I think it is wrong now to try to censor books, whether it be because the book is considered to "adult" for some kids, or because someone wants to keep even adults from reading a book because they don't agree with something in the book.

Why am I writing about this now?

Well, it's Banned Books Week, the week every year when the American Library Association and others who care about books and ideas take the time to point out to everyone that there are people out there who want to keep you from reading stuff. And it isn't always the same people. Left-wingers complain about books just about as much as right-wingers do; it's just that it is often not the same books they're complaining about. So, if you were expecting me to rail against the conservatives for being book-banners and leave the other side alone - not happening. I don't care what part of the political spectrum you're on, if you want to keep people from reading I'm not going to be happy with you.

I ran across this video, from last year's Banned Books Week, in which Bill Moyers speaks about book banning:

Let me repeat just one line from the video. "Censorship is the enemy of truth." That is so important.

And if you're going to jump up and say, "But, what about the children? We don't want them looking at hard-core porn," my answer is, well, yes. You're right. But that isn't what is being talked about here. Not at all. What Banned Books Week stands against is the people who want to ban - and sometimes burn - books because they don't agree with something about religion in the books, or something about politics, or something about social behavior, or because there is cussing in the book. And there are people like that around. They think that the Harry Potter books should be banned because "OMG! Witches and wizards!" Or they want Das Kapital out of the schools because of "all that evil Marxism". Or they don't want To Kill a Mockingbird available because it addresses the issue of racism. The list could, and does, go on and on.

Sometimes, the people who want certain books banned just complain about those books to schools and libraries and bookstores. Other times, they will go so far as to check books they object to out of the library and never take them back the object of making sure other people cannot get access to them. No, really. People do that. I'm not sure what gives them the idea that they should have some sort of say over what other people can read, but that's just me. My attitude is, my own parents didn't tell me what I could and couldn't read, why am I going to let a total stranger do so?

At any rate, there are lists of books that people have tried to ban that make the rounds this time of year. My suggestion is to find one of those lists and read one of the books on it. You'll find all kinds of books on those lists - even the Bible, sometimes.

I'm going to leave this video, also from last year's Banned Books Week celebration, here before I go for the day. In it, a number of writers and others talk about the books they've read that people have tried to ban. There's some interesting titles here, some of which you probably didn't know someone tried to keep out of other people's hands and minds:

I think I'm going to go read a book now.

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