Monday, September 25, 2006

I Read Banned Books

By Sean Chercover

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

I don’t want to get on a soapbox here. Really, I don't. But as America threatens to descend into Theocrazy (get it? "Theocrazy." Ha!), perhaps we should pause long enough to celebrate Banned Books Week.

Sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, and a handful of other fine organizations (and endorsed by the Library of Congress), Banned Books Week attempts to draw our attention to an ongoing threat to our intellectual freedom.

The thing is, thousands of groups of our fellow citizens have appointed themselves as America’s moral guardians. These groups want to protect the rest of us from ideas that they have deemed Evil.

As you might expect, these Evil Ideas are found in Very Dangerous Books. And our self-appointed moral guardians want to protect us by having these Dangerous Books banned from public libraries and school libraries. And the really frightening thing is, their efforts occasionally meet with success.

Here are a few titles, from the top-100 challenged books (1990-2000):

To Kill A Mockingbird
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Of Mice And Men
The Catcher In The Rye
In The Night Kitchen (Seriously, I kid you not.)
The Color Purple
Brave New World
The Outsiders
James And The Giant Peach
Ordinary People
Native Son
Lord of The Flies
Song Of Solomon
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

. . .and so on.

It may seem odd to “celebrate” Banned Books Week, but the idea is to celebrate the books, not the idiots who would like to revoke the First Amendment.

So please follow the links in this post, and read Banned Books Week section of the ALA website.

And unless you have something better planned this week, (like, say, burning a witch, or using the constitution for toilet paper) please consider stopping by your local library and checking out a couple of the books on the list.

I'll get off my soapbox now.


Libby Hellmann said...

Hear, hear. Thank you for the reminder, Sean. It's sometimes difficult to remember, steeped as we are in the writing community, that others do not respect the first ammendment the same way we do. And it's a scary proposition to think that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is at the top of the banned books list. Funny... that was the first book chosen for the "One Chicago" reading program. Kudos to the Daley administration for that.

maryann mercer said...

Somewhere there has to be a T-shirt with this sentiment on it. I would wear it proudly. The narrow-mindedness of some when it comes to the printed word, especially classics by Mark Twain or Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird disturbs me. It is a blatant attempt to govern not only our minds but our souls. Some of the best books we read in high school and college are on that list.
Thanks for the reminder, Sean.

Sean Chercover said...


Thanks for your comment. Actually, you can get T-shirts, buttons, bracelets etc. that express the sentiment. Just follow the links in the post to the ALA website, where they've got 'em. I ordered an "I Read Banned Books" T-shirt, myself. And the money helps support fight against censorship, so there's no downside.

Michael Dymmoch said...

On the other hand, look what getting banned did for SATANIC VERSES. And I'd never have discovered Harry Potter if some idiots hadn't tried to get him thrown out of public libraries.

Fortunately, we're a nation of people cut on the bias. So banning anything almost always makes it attractive. (Look what the War on Drugs has done for cocaine sales.)

I wish someone would ban one of my books.

Keith said...

As much as I'd like to show my support, my stopping by a library means the book will be effectively banned all over again, because I won't return it for three years.

Brett Battles said...

And this today from Yahoo