Happy (?) Banned Books Week

Happy (yes!) Banned Books Week (and the Future of Democracy)

September 23-29 is Banned Books Week from the American Library Association, with this year’s theme of “Banning Books Silences Stories.”

My local library, in Santa Cruz, asked me to contribute to their video collection of local readers talking about a favorite banned book. And I said sure, both because: libraries, but also because I was myself banned, a little, sort of. As I explain here:

Now, as a good Leftie Liberal, I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against banning any book.  Free speech is free speech, no matter how painful and occasionally distasteful. However, a survey of the arguments against various books—and particularly, HOW that argument is addressed and dealt with—makes food for thought when it comes to continuing lessons in practical democracy.

In an age when racist blather is shouted from the highest offices of the land, do I really wantmy kid to be handed the wince-evoking racism of Tintin’sNative Americans and Conglese people—with no suggestion that those attitudes may be offensive?

Similarly, isn’t it hazardous to hand the gullible a copy of Mein Kampfor The Protocols of the Elders of Zionwithout explanation?  But if so, does that mean the library (or internet) shouldn’t have those books at all?  Isn’t it possible to attach a sort of trigger warning to a book that offends, to encourage the reader to reflect on why that book is troubling, and to encourage that reader to investigate more deeply?  Isn’t it the job of a library or school to educate us—children or adults—about the wider world?

More thoughts on this tomorrow—but in the meantime, look at the listsand tell me: what’s YOUR favorite banned book?

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  1. Dayna F on September 25, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    I haven’t read them all, but from the list of classics, my favorite is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which I read as a young teen. I so wanted to be a part of that world rather than the dreary one I lived in.

    Here’s a funny story about The Joy of Sex. An army friend in the late 1980s owned a copy of it and a companion book The Joy of Lesbian Sex. When she was reassigned, and the army moved her personal belongings, the transportation officer refused to ship The Joy of Sex but let The Joy of Lesbian Sex go through. The reason? The Joy of Sex showed vaginal penetration, which was the army’s definition of pornography, but The Joy of Lesbian Sex did not show the act of penetration and therefore was not pornography.

    • Laurie King on September 25, 2018 at 2:10 pm

      Envisioning the transportation officer paging dutifully through both volumes….

  2. susan on September 25, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    one of my favorite “banned books” is HUCKELBERRY FINN”….when i first read in the 7th grade (yes, seventh grade!) our teacher took great care to explain to us that the “n” word was absolutely NOT acceptable to use anymore (this was the 60s btw). she explained that is was commonly used back when Twain was writing. i started to realize even then that the key to a lot of our problems with literature is a lack of education. that is, EDUCATION, not indoctrination. a lot of what passes for education is not. instead of being taught why things are right or wrong children are told what to think and what to do. this is so wrong on many levels. we must teach children to think!!!

  3. Suzanne on September 30, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    To Kill A Mockingbird and The Kite Runner and Huckleberry Finn are favorites of mine. I don’t think any books should be banned but those promoting vile crimes like child abuse and pornography would be on the top of my list of I did.

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