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This Week's Blog

Banned Books Week 10.3.12

Did you know that this year September 30th through October 6th is Banned Books Week? Every year, the American Library Association promotes books that have been frequently banned or challenged for various reasons. Do you believe that in modern society, we should still have books being banned for being "offensive" or "evil"? Doesn't this go against our first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press?

An ABC News article highlights 11 out of hundreds of books that have been placed on the banned\challenged book list going back more than a century. I was surprised to find that I have read 5 out of the 11 books and that all but one of those 5 were assigned reading in school. Many of these books are now considered classics such as "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", "The Catcher in the Rye", "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Of Mice and Men" just to name a few.

"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" has been on and off the banned books list for well over a century. The reason cited, it contains the N-word over 200 times. Now, I'm not a fan of this word, but I don't think it is a cause to ban the book. We have to remember that the book was written in a very different time from the one that we now live in.

No one is ever going to agree with every word that is ever published. It is our right as consumers to personally choose not to support a particular author if we do not agree with their work. But it should not be our right to have the books removed from shelves, preventing others from making this decision for themselves.

It is my belief that book banning has the opposite effect than the one intended. By boycotting and protesting books, they are brought to the attention of a multitude of people that might not otherwise have heard of or been exposed to them. Take J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series for example. Many religious groups called for the books to be banned because they believed that they promoted witchcraft. The protests only served to garner free advertising for the books which became somewhat of an overnight success and a series of blockbuster movies.

As parents, we need to be aware of what our children are reading. If we believe that certain books are unsuitable for a particular age range or goes against our core beliefs, then it is our job to either ensure that our children read them when they are mature enough or that we sit down with them and discuss the content. When has prohibiting our children from doing anything ever worked? The tactic only serves to entice them further to "eat the forbidden fruit". We need to be the ones to expose our children to what's out there in the world on our own terms, because if we don't someone else will.

Perhaps it is because I have been in love with reading from a very early age or the fact that I understand that fiction is just that, fiction, but I have never had as critical an eye as so many other people I encounter. This is not to say that I love everything I read. It just means that I have never encountered a book that I deemed so terrible that I wanted to throw it across the room in a fit of rage, have it pulled from shelves or even burned.

In truth, I can only think of one book that I just couldn't bring myself to continue reading, "Robinson Crusoe". Now I know this novel is considered a classic and has inspired other classics like "The Swiss Family Robinson". And I also know that it was the inspiration behind the movie "Castaway" which I have also seen. But for some reason, the novel bored me to tears and I just couldn't subject myself to it any longer. However, this is just my opinion and I am free to share my opinion with others but that doesn't mean I should shove it down anyone else's throat or have the book banned to save some other poor soul from the same torture. Clearly others have enjoyed the book enough to find inspiration for their own work; work that I have actually enjoyed.

So in honor of Banned Book Week, I will be reading Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", an autobiography that was banned for "preaching bitterness and hatred toward white people and encouraging deviant behavior because of references to lesbianism, premarital sex and profanity". I'm not sure when it has ever been acceptable to tell someone that they cannot share their life story or that their life is too offensive to be put on paper, but when someone shares such a private and emotionally challenging experience as being raped at the age of 8, I think we need to focus more on why it happened and less on the fact that it was written.