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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Banned Books Week

In the U.S., this week (September 27 – October 3) is Banned Books Week.  It is a national event founded in 1982 to raise awareness to the fact that people are still trying to ban books.

The American Library Association states, “By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”  On its website, the ALA has lists of the most frequently challenged books (http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10).  It is certainly a worthwhile site to browse.  Some of the books on those lists may surprise you. 

An article appeared in Slate magazine arguing that Banned Books Week is an anachronism.  The author states that the event is fear-mongering about a non-existent wave of censorship:  http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2015/09/banned_books_week_no_one_bans_books_anymore_and_censorship_of_books_is_incredibly.html.   BookRiot posted a response which argues that “When books are challenged, even when the result is not a full ban, nobody wins” (http://bookriot.com/2015/09/29/hey-slate-banned-books-week-isnt-crock/).  Read both articles and form your own opinion.

Personally, I agree with Eugene O’Neill who said that censorship is “the last resort of the boob and the bigot.”  Censors are bullies who fear the power of the written word which might challenge their beliefs and assumptions.  Those in favour of censorship foster ignorance and narrow-mindedness; as Haruki Murakami, the internationally acclaimed Japanese writer, said, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”  I think it is a parent’s responsibility to expose a child to different points of view and to guide him/her through the reading of books offering those.  A parent may decide that his/her child should not read a certain book, but that does not mean that all children should be denied access.