Have you read a banned book? Bet you have.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Color Purple, and J.K. Rowling’s entire Harry Potter universe are bad, bad, BAD, according to some people. And so, in towns and cities nationwide, disapproving naysayers huddle and plot to make sure that no one around them can read forbidden text. Forbidden because they say so.
Welcome to the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Free and open access to information is important, and for at least one week, Sept. 30-Oct. 6, 2012, the American Library Association (ALA) wants you to acknowledge that fact. Special activities include an online 50 state salute to the effort.
Check out ALA’s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. Many have stayed on the list for generations, including James Joyce’s Ulysses and Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Newer titles include the popular Gossip Girl series by Cecily vonZiegesar and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
I’m happy to learn that many books I was assigned to read in high school and college have been challenged. My teachers at Shaker Heights High School were as good as I thought they were. I wouldn’t have guessed any of the titles was so “dangerous” that banning would be an option. A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
One book that was assigned reading in my high school, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, has been challenged over and over again, as recently as 2011. Published in 1932, the story expresses the fear of losing individual identity and freedom in the fast-paced world of the year 2540. Ironic, huh?
Perhaps it’s because I have read these books, and had the freedom to read them, that I believe the action of banning books is akin to slapping duct tape across an author’s mouth and across a reader’s eyes. Don’t let it happen to you.