The ACLU chapter active in my state is holding a celebration of banned books next week up in Charleston. If you’re in the area, I invite you to go and see what is happening today in the world of banned books. As an added attraction, they have provided a nifty brochure (pdf) showing many of the recently banned or challenged books from around the country. If you’re not in this area, take some time and find out what is being done in your area to celebrate Banned Books Week and become involved.
One of the problems with the documenting of “Banned Books” is that vast lists of historical aversion to many important pieces of literature tend to clutter the more current activities designed to control the lives of other people, especially younger adults, when it comes to telling them what they should and should not read. I like this idea of just hi-lighting recent activities: it shows that closed-mindedness is still common in America and doesn’t obscure the issue with archival listings dragged up from a long and sad history of book banning.
Justice William Brennan clearly recognizes the freedom as expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution:
If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
It’s such a supreme irony that the freedom-loving Yahoos run around with loaded semi-automatic rifles insisting on their rights under the Second Amendment and then drop in to the school board meeting to make sure no one’s children are allowed to read such trash as The Diary of Anne Frank or The Color Purple.
Neil Gaiman reminds us:
Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-butdull books that you like—the twenty-firstcentury equivalents of Victorian ‘improving’ literature— you’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.
If you’re wondering, here are the titles the ACLU included on the list (but go to the website because there is much more information there about these individual titles and banned books in general):
- Alexie, Sherman — The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
- Allende, Isabel — The House of the Spirits
- Anaya, Rodolfo — Bless Me, Ultima
- Atwood, Margaret — The Handmaid’s Tale
- Aylisli, Akram — Stone Dreams
- Chbosky, Stephen — The Perks of Being a Wallflower
- Ellis, Elisabeth Gaynor, and Anthony Esler — World History
- Ellison, Ralph — Invisible Man
- Erlbach, Arlene — The Middle School Survival Guide
- Follett, Ken — The Pillars of the Earth
- Frank, Anne — Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
- Gaiman, Neil — Neverwhere
- Green, John — Looking for Alaska
- Ignatow, Amy — The Popularity Papers
- Lyga, Barry — I Hunt Killers
- Morrison, Toni — Bluest Eye
- Myers, Walter Dean — Fallen Angels
- Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds — Intensely Alice
- Othman, Norani, ed. — Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism
- Rivera, Tomas — And the Earth Did Not Devour Him
- Rosen, Lucy — I Am Bane
- Rowell, Rainbow — Eleanor & Park
- St. Stephen’s Community House The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality
- Satrapi, Marjane Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
- Stone, Tanya Lee A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
- Walker, Alice Color Purple
- Winter, Jeanette Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
- Winter, Jeanette The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq