Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week

Today starts Banned Books Week in the USA. For those who don't know, Banned Books Week celebrates freedom of speech by encouraging people to read books that have been banned in schools, removed from libraries, and in some cases, even taken to court to be banned in entire towns.

Now don't misunderstand: these aren't books that are illegal to own (at least, not in the US), they are books that some people have simply tried to make harder to obtain. Many of these books have been banned for sexual content, others for antireligions or pro "magic" sentiments. Recently, many children's books (particularly picture books) have come under attack for showing gay relationships, even in cases where the main characters are all animals.

I'm going to try not to make this post a into a rant; censorship is something that really makes me mad. In my opinion, if we try and cover up the truth (or even the "maybe" truth), we only risk making the mistakes of the past. In any case, I wanted to write this entry to inform, not intimidate.

It is unfortunate that throughout history, even recently, many classic books have been banned. These books include: To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, Native Son, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Fin, even Little Red Riding Hood. Also stunning are some of the recent books (many bestsellers) that have been banned or challenged: The Kite Runner, The Giver, The Freedom Writers' Diary, The Lovely Bones, His Dark Materials trilogy, and of course, Harry Potter. Every book on that list has either been made into a movie, or is in production. The most surprising to me is the inclusion of children's picture books on banned book lists. Both Uncle Bobby's Wedding (about the marriage of two gay gerbils) and And Tango Makes Three (about two male penguins in a zoo who form a relationship and adopt a chick; it is nonfiction) were children's picture books that have been banned and challenged in various places across the country.

So please, I urge you: celebrate Banned Books Week. Take a banned book to school or work. When someone asks what you're reading, inform them about book banning and Banned Books Week. A friend of mine did a high school research paper on censorship last year; she found that an alarming number of students didn't even know that books could be banned or challenged. Imagine if people started removing books from shelves and no one knew. If students are unaware, they can do nothing to change it. Celebrate your freedom to read what you want! Happy Banned Books Week!

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