Welcome to Banned Books Week 2011!

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I wrote that title like it’s an exciting thing, when in reality I wish there was no need for a week like this.

From the ALA website:

“Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”

Let’s take a look at the First Amendment, shall we?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That says that we cannot make laws that limit each person’s freedom of speech. That means your freedom, mine, or an author’s. Anything that anyone wants to write about (or talk about or read about) is okay. So why do people keep trying to limit others’ freedom of speech? You know that these very same people would screech like banshees if they felt their rights were being infringed upon in any way.

I don’t really gravitate naturally toward banned books. They tend to deal with very serious issues, and while I do think it is great that there are authors out there with the courage to tackle these subjects, that’s not exactly my cup of tea. I’m more of an escapist reader. What I have noticed as I’ve been involved with Banned Books Week over the past two years (last year’s soapbox post) is that so many of these banned/challenged books are written by minorities. I guess people find it unsettling to read about a lifestyle that’s so different from their own. Sweeping problems under the rug doesn’t make them go away. Writing and reading and talking and openly acknowledging issues are steps on the way to healing. I might not understand what it’s like to be a 14-year-old African-American girl who is repeatedly raped and beaten by her stepfather (The Color Purple), but at the very least, this book reminds me to be thankful for my sheltered life. It also gives me the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes for a little while and gain a little compassion. It also shows me that if this girl can overcome her paralyzing circumstances, I can get through whatever life throws at me. And that gives me hope in the most unexpected of places. This just focuses on me. If I can gain so much from a book, imagine what someone going through similar horrific circumstances can get out of it. Do we really want to take away what could be his or her lifeline? I for one don’t want to be responsible for that decision.

Join me this week as I review and celebrate some banned books. I have read some outstanding books that I might otherwise not have read on my own. I hope you find some books that you’re interested in reading. If you aren’t interested in any of the books I review, check out a book from the ALA’s list of frequently challenged books. If you do, remember as you read them: If you don’t stand up to those who would ban books, you would never have the opportunity to read the book you’re holding in your hand. Don’t you feel that the decision to read or not read a book should be up to you?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. People keep thinking that all banned books are old.

    This week, right now, during banned books week even, a group of people (Christians this time) are trying to shut down a book that was leaked online, before it even is officially released.

    That would be Keely Thomson: Demon Girl

    The author is K.L. Byron

    Publisher: Orange Cat Publishing

    The reason?

    It says that god/Jesus and the rest may not be real. Also some homosexual and adult themes. Plus, the main character is a demon, which can't be going over well.

    But that's a new level, isn't it? Stopping a book from ever seeing publication?

    This pisses me off.

  2. I always look through my unread books to see which have been challenged for my Banned Book Week read. I'm reading The Hunger Games this year.

  3. I'm looking forward to banned books week! I've read one book (Sherman Alexie's Part Time Indian), and am going to start Brave New World today! I can't wait to see what everyone's going to read!

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