This week is Banned Books Week, an annual week-long celebration of the freedom to read that has been practiced since 1982. This is a time when we celebrate authors who have created a vision through literature that is not quite in step with at least a portion of the population. In his book Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.” (ALA banned books website 9/23/2008)
Books are typically challenged for all the right or wrong reasons, depends on your viewpoint. You may think this is only something that was done in the past with books like Orwell’s Animal Farm, Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo or Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but peoples’ will to censor is still alive and well in America today.
Some are considered too sexual, such as Jon Stewart’s America (the Book): a Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction where a picture of JFK is captioned “John F. Kennedy (1917–1963), whose idealism and/ or sexual escapades inspired a generation.”
Some are suppressed on religious grounds, such as all of the J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. “According to the American Library Association (ALA), every year from 1999 to 2002, Harry Potter topped the list of titles “challenged,” or targeted for censorship, in libraries and schools in the United States because it portrays wizardry and magic.”
Other than having the freedom to read what does this mean to you? Freedom to read without interference means that librarians all over the country examine and place books in age appropriate collections; handle challenges to those books fairly; and defend appropriate decisions. It means that here at Colgate, we do not give out information about who has checked out books or films from our libraries. You could even say that it means that there is a free flow of information from and about our government that is so necessary in a democracy.
“America (the Book): a Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.” Literature Suppressed on Sexual Grounds. Dawn B. Sova. 3rd ed. New York: Facts on File, 2011. 12-19. Banned Books. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Sep. 2012.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Literature Suppressed on Religious Grounds. Margaret Bald. 3rd ed. New York: Facts on File, 2011. 154-162. Banned Books. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 19 Sep. 2012.