I received an email today from one of my favorite book sources Alibris
alerting me to banned books
they have available. Thinking that this list was from the 1950's and earlier, I was surprised to learn how current some of these books and authors were, as well as how many I have read being totally unaware of their "banned or challenged" status.
In fact one of my favorite books The Martian Chronicles
is on the list in addition to all of the Harry Potter
I faintly remembered William Faulkners' novel As I Lay Dying
and John Steinbecks' Of Mice and Men
making the list and I was slightly amused by Stephen Kings' and Maya Angelous' "offensive" designation.
In the past, Lady Chatterleys' Lover
and Catcher in the Rye
were banned, which of course just made them that more delicious and desirable when I was growing up and I can still hear my mothers rants (expressing strong disapproval) over the seizure of James Joyces' Ulysses
by the US Postal Authorities in 1918 and 1930.
So who decides whether a certain book or author is objectionable and how does a book become "banned" or more often "challenged"?
According to the American Librarian Association
, parents challenge materials more often than any other group and the top 3 reasons in order are that the material is considered to be “sexually explicit” contains “offensive language,” and is “unsuited to the age group.”
Personally, I believe these are all legitimate concerns and I applaud parents who are actively engaged in the guidance and education of their
children. However their
opinions should not be imposed on me or my children. I get to decide what I (and my children) read, listen and watch, not someone else, regardless of their intentions.
No one is entirely immune to the seduction of suppression and censorship and commonly it is practiced for benevelent, humane reasons. From Banned Books on line
, a number of democratic countries, including Austria, France, Germany, and Canada, have criminalized various forms of "hate speech", including books judged to disparage minority groups. In the 1980s, Ernst Zündel was convicted twice under Canada's "false news" laws for publishing Did Six Million Really Die?
, a 1974 book denying the Holocaust. On appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court found the "false news" law unconstitutional in 1992
, but Zündel was sucessfully prosecuted under Canada's "Human Rights Act" for publishing this book and other material on his Zundelsite
I do not agree with the beliefs (and actions) of many people and I am often offended if not repulsed by them. But a law forbidding behavior that exposes
a person to hatred
seems highly subjective to me. If this was supported in America, wouldn't all the Bush critics , war protesters, anti- capitalists, and media mavens who make no attempts to hide their own hatred and contempt be prosecuted?
Most of the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the perponderance of sensationalism, editorializing and political posturing that ensued was contemptible in my opinion. But I will reserve those comments for another more appropriate time. So discovering that this week (Sept. 24 - Oct.1) was Banned Book Week seems especially serendiptious.
More erudite and accomplished people have said it more eloquently than I will ever manage, but the message is always the same. Free people read freely.
Keep in mind these words of Noam Chomsky ( probably the only opinion we share),
"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."
Now if only he and his like minded colleagues acted as if they believed their own words...
So read a banned book. Visit a banned book website. Blog your approval and/or disapproval. Celebrate your own freedom of speech and expression. Don't let all the muckrakers have all the fun.