Monday, September 27, 2010

does everybody know what WEEK it is?!

September 25-October 2, 2010 is Banned Book Week, which draws attention to banned and challenged books in our culture and raises awareness about the right to make informed decisions about what to read for yourself.

The sky is also blue.
Reptiles are cold-blooded.
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.
And for my last 'duh' statement, Disneyland is outrageously expensive.

I was looking at the 10 Most Challenged books, according to the American Library Association. To be honest, some of the books did not surprise me, but some of them did:

- To Kill a Mockingbird. Reasons include: racism, offensive language, unsuitable to age group.
Now, I get the racism thing, but...that's kind of what the book is about (dealing with racism in 1930s Alabama) so...hmm. How can you write about the flaws present in a heavily racist and prejudicial society without including the issue itself? Very strange.

- Catcher in the Rye. Reasons include: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
Catcher in the Rye is sexually explicit? Really? I must have read a different book. I don't recall any 'explicit' content in this novel, and not going to lie, I'm not a big fan of sexually explicit stuff in books. I'm also not a big fan of zucchini, but I don't think it should be banned, just to clarify :)
And what in the world - religious viewpoint? HUH? I seriously don't remember that at all.

Twilight: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.
*shakes head* Poor Stephenie Meyer! The gal just can't win: people are either accusing the book of being sexually explicit (which, let me say, it is NOT) or they're on the other end of the spectrum accusing it of being religiously...whatever. I don't know. Sexually explicit? It could be argued that the book advocates abstinence, for pooh's sake. People will complain about anything!

As I went down the list, the two categories that seemed the most predominant were 'sexually explicit' and 'unsuited to age group.' The problem with both of these categories is that they are rather subjective and don't always convey the whole truth, and I would guess that's the reason why book-banning has gone from being a big issue in our culture to being a gargantuan issue.
The bottom line is, continues to be, and always will be, the right to read and digest whatever material you see fit. That is a decision no one should make for you (except, sorry kids/teens - the job of parents permits them to have an interest in the stuff you're putting into your mind).

I will go a step further, though, and say that the right to read/digest whatever material you see fit is a 2-way street, much like a lot of other issues in our world. (Mind my grammar and pronouns here) Just as someone shouldn't have the authority to prohibit you from access to books, neither should they have the right to force you to read something you don't want to... SCHOOLS! TEACHERS! Alternate assignments and the reading choice of many books is always a good thing, to ensure that your (the teacher/the school's) values do not become mandatory values for everyone else. That is intellectual protection. Ohh, and this is interesting:
Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

- I actually didn't think that the 1st Amendment applied to minors, but apparently it does! Too bad I wasn't aware of that when I was in high school :)

So what was the purpose of this post? Really, I just wanted to take a look at the Top 10 Most Challenged Books, see if I'd read any of them, and look at the reasons why. And the 'reasons why' seem pretty far-fetched, to be honest, and don't tell the whole story. The inclusion of some books on that list does not surprise me at all, but the inclusion of others did. It is absolutely unbelievable to me that after all these years, To Kill a Mockingbird would still be challenged. And Twilight - ? Oh my gosh, banners, really?! You all know it's about vampires. You all know it's a love story. If you don't like it, don't read it!

"The lust to suppress can come from any direction."
- Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me But Not Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other
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