|Image courtesy of the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America).|
Saturday, September 24, was the beginning of Banned Books Week for 2011. Sponsored by 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, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, and the PEN American Center, this event has been held yearly during the last week of September since 1982. It has also been endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Since 1982, over 11,000 books have been challenged.
|Image courtesy of the Lake City Public Library.|
The purpose is not only to encourage readers to examine works that have been challenged, but to also promote intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and wherever books are read or sold. Many groups celebrate banned and challenged books during this week and hold awareness campaigns. The difference between a book that has been challenged and one that has been banned is that a challenged book is an attempt to remove it from a library or curriculum, while a banned one has been removed.
Amnesty International also observes this event by drawing attention to individuals who are persecuted because of what they write, circulate, or read. Here is a link to featured individuals who have or are being oppressed, tortured, or imprisoned.
|Lydia Cacho Ribeiro had to leave her home in|
Mexico because of recent death threats for her
books exposing a child pornography ring and
the trafficking of women and girls. Image from
Amnesty International (see link above).
Banned Books Week is the only national observance of the freedom to read. Last year there were 348 titles reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom that were challenged, and many more go unreported each year. The Office of Intellectual Freedom collects their information from newspapers and reports submitted by individuals, all of which go into a database. The Banned Books Week Resource Guide is updated every three years, and is available at your local library or can be purchased. Click here for a PDF file on books challenged or banned in 2010-2011, and the reason(s) why.
|Image courtesy ALA|
The very popular Twilight series, by Stephanie Meyer, was challenged as being sexually explicit, violent, unsuited for its age group, and having a religious viewpoint. Fortunately, it more than survived. Currently irritating many a parent and parent group is the book And Tango Makes Three, which is about same-sex penguin parents, seen as promoting homosexuality to young children "against their will". In fact, some may argue that being challenged is a good marketing ploy for a book.
|This book is based on a true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo|
in New York who were given an egg to raise. Co-author Justin Richardson was
quoted in an article in the NY Times: "We wrote the book to help parents teach
children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of
human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole
or sleep on rocks." Homophobic parents will be pleased to learn the pair has
since split up, and one of the males has paired with a female.
There is an argument whether there is indeed any censorship occurring, but former ALA (American Library Association) president Camila Alire has stated that there are hundreds of documented attempts to suppress access to written materials each year, and when a library is asked to restrict access, that is an attempt at censorship. Opponents argue that parents have the right to object to their children being exposed to certain literature, but since parents will differ as to what literature they object to, it seems that they need to take it upon themselves to limit exposure, and not try to force their decisions on everyone.
|Image courtesy of Lee's Summit High School, Mo.|
It is indeed fortunate that a majority of the books targeted during Banned Books Week were not banned or restricted, but that is because of the efforts of the cadre of librarians, teachers, booksellers, readers, and others in communities. This celebration of the freedom provided by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution deserves the respect and thanks of free people who like to read freely. This reader thanks everyone who takes part - I am personally grateful to everyone who fights for accessibility to all books, whether I read them or not.