This week is the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week (BBW). Libraries all over the county are celebrating by putting out these banned books and telling the world to triumph over the closed minded and READ THESE books. These long-suffering, sorely abused books.
If you’ve been to a library this week, you’ve probably seen evidence of this.
I am a book lover, a reader, a librarian, a teacher, a writer, and more. I love books. I do not believe in censorship. But I also do not believe in BBW. The thing of it is, none of these books have been, well, banned. Sure, for many of them, small minded parents in a school district complained to the board of education and got them removed from the school, the reading lists, the library.
But is that banning? Not in my view. Those kids could still go to the local library and get them. Or maybe they couldn’t because they were banned at the public library as well. But is that banning? Again, I say no. Maybe in that area, in that town, you couldn’t get the book, but other towns still had it, other schools, other libraries. The book was and still is available. Never in my lifetime have I been unable to read any of the books on ALA’s list of banned books. And don’t kid yourselves. Look at the list. Many of them were written and banned in my lifetime.
It happens year after year, any time a book is published that people don’t like for any reason. Do I agree with this? I do not. I don’t think any person has the right to decide what others read, unless you are a parent of a child. But that only gives the right to decide for YOUR child, not to complain to the school and get it banned for all the children. You don’t get to decide what MY child reads. So, yeah, I support anti-censorship.
But, my issue is this. We live in a world with serious problems. We have 10% of our population who cannot read. Illiteracy is a serious problem. Not liking the sorcery in Harry Potter is not a serious problem. Thinking 50 Shades of Grey is smut, is not a serious problem. Worrying about the overuse of the word fuck in Eleanor and Park is not a serious problem.
Overall, though, what we see are small areas affected by the actions of a smaller-still section of the population. It sucks, it surely does, for those affected by it. But in this day and age, go online and buy the book at Amazon. Or download it to your smartphone from the public library. Heck, go ahead and read that classic for free at Project Gutenberg. Books are more prevalent than ever in our society and our access to them is nearly unlimited. Sure, some people will disagree with the content and not want you to read it, but at the end of the day, even if those people are your parents, what you read is up to you. It is your choice. No one can take that from you. If your school or your public library or the bookstore in your town will not carry the book, that makes it tougher to get your hands on a copy, no doubt. But it does not make it impossible.
Our government is not standing up and recalling all the books it doesn’t agree with and holding nationwide censorship bonfires, because we don’t live in a society like that. We have freedom to write what we want and think what we want and read what we want. And no one gets to stop us. Some people will try, people will always try. Those people, they will always exist and always fight. Same as there will always be people who will give in, who will cave to the pressure, who will fold to the fanaticism of their every opponent, but this does not mean your world is limited.
Your world, my world, the world, is exactly what we each choose to make of it. I don’t agree with a celebration of Banned Books. I don’t believe in the cause. Instead, I choose to be a reader and a lover of books. I read what I want and don’t worry about what anyone else says.
That is how I celebrate. That is my contribution. It is how I make my corner of the world a better place to be. I just keep on reading.