Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrate Banned Books Week - September 26 - October 3

The Banned Books Week annual celebration of our freedom to read began on Saturday. This event is observed during the last week of September each year. BBW is jointly sponsored by the the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Lots of heavy hitters in the line-up so yeah, it's a big deal.

Each year, ALA compiles a list of books which were challenged, but not necessarily banned, in libraries. If you want more information about what books have been the most challenged in the past year and in the last hundred years, visit this ALA Web Page and research for yourself.

Why not call it "Challenged Book Week?" I'll quote ALA:

Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) is asked why the week is called “Banned Books Week” instead of “Challenged Books Week,” since the majority of the books featured during the week are not banned, but “merely” challenged. There are two reasons. One, ALA does not “own” the name Banned Books Week, but is just one of several cosponsors of BBW; therefore, ALA cannot change the name without all the cosponsors agreeing to a change. Two, none want to do so, primarily because a challenge is an attempt to ban or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted.

This is why booksellers, libraries and publishers, and yes, writers, make such a BIG deal about this week every year. We want to make sure books are available for each individual to read and review for themselves. Some books which I find to be pure crap others find to be pearls of wisdom, etc.

This week is important to me on two levels: because I'm a librarian AND a writer. Not only that, but I write erotic romance and if anything has been subject to censorship over the years, it's been sexuality. Now, I am not about to give my books to anyone under the age of 18 to read, that's not my point. My point is that it is up to the individual - or if an individual is under 18 it is up to the parent - what they read. No one should tell me I can't read a certain book and a parent should only decide for his/her own children not for other people's children. Bear in mind, I am speaking from the perspective of a librarian working in a public library. The rules are different for school libraries, because those librarians stand in loco parentis so their responsibilities are different than mine.

I've included pictures of the banned books display I put together for my library this year. I received a bird cage on loan and I caged some books. The slogan I created for this display was: "No matter how attractive or comfortable it is, a cage is STILL a cage. Uncage your mind. Read Banned Books." Many people are surprised when they discover the Holy Bible has been challenged in libraries but it has. Even the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary has been challenged.

Check out the challenged book lists. Have you read any of the books on the list? Are there any on the list which surprise you? Have you read any books on the list which made a lasting impression on you?

Happy Banned Books Week! Go out and read a challenged book this week. You'll be glad you did!


Serena Shay said...

Great blog, Francesca! I love the display. :) I've always had a love affair with books. It matters not the subject, the age or the age appropriateness of it. If the subject interests me, I'm going to read it. If it does not, I'll put it down, but the idea of challenging, banning or heaven help us burning a book would never cross my mind...

I'm always amazed by what sets some folks off. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, was an incredible eye opener in my young mind, yet it seems to be challenged often. I can't wait until Darling Diva gets to read it, definitely a call to re-read!

Savanna Kougar said...

Gee, I always thought the point of a library was for free individuals to choose what THEY want to read, not have someone else choose for THEM.

When are people, in general, going to get freedom is worth the price? How small-minded do you have to be to deny others their right to read what they want?

1984, Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World... made a huge impact on me... so many on the list I've read or seen as a film. Really, what would our culture be without these books?

Francesca Hawley said...

Thanks for commenting. It always amazes me when people want to censor the things other people choose to watch or read. Here's a couple of great quotes on the topic:

"All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let's get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!"
--Kurt Vonnegut

"Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage."
--Winston Churchill

Tilly Greene said...

Right there with you, Francesca. This week is the only week I get on a soap box and talk through a megaphone - no censorship!

Paris said...

I've always hated the idea of censorship. It's always touted by closed minded people who can only feel good if everyone thinks and behaves the way they do. I was twelve the first time I read "Grapes of Wrath". I was stunned by the power of Steinbeck's depiction of that time and never looked at the world quite the same.

I think those who would censor live in fear of that kind of power. The sad part is that I don't think most of them know what they are missing.

Crystal Kauffman said...

Francesca, I envy the influence you hold as a librarian. Thank you for your openmindedness!