So apparently this week (Sept 29 - Oct 6) is Banned Books Week
. In light of the recent controversies surrounding the purging of religious books
from prison libraries in the name of "security," the freedom to read is once again a significant issue. While I hope we are still a long way from government enforced book burning, the challenging and banning of books is still an ongoing problem. There is the occasional church that hosts a good old fashioned book burning
- usually involving fantasy fiction such as Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, but the most controversy these days occurs in schools and libraries as certain interest groups attempt to get books removed. Apparently if a book has anything meaningful to say at all someone will disagree with it. But many people go beyond disagreement and assume that if they don't like something it has to be banned for everyone.
The list of frequently banned books
can be surprising at times. With some, like Catcher in the Rye, I've heard about the controversy, but others just don't make any sense. A Wrinkle in Time? Where's Waldo?
??? How seeped in fear does one's life have to be to try to get books like those banned?
The reasons most commonly cited for challenging a book include -
* 1,607 were challenges to “sexually explicit” material;
* 1,427 to material considered to use “offensive language”;
* 1,256 to material considered “unsuited to age group”;
* 842 to material with an “occult theme or promoting the occult or Satanism,”;
* 737 to material considered to be “violent”;
* 515 to material with a homosexual theme or “promoting homosexuality,” and
* 419 to material “promoting a religious viewpoint.”
So if a book takes a realistic look at a real life issue it had better not contain sex, or violence, or offensive language or it will be challenged (i.e. real life had better not actually show real life). So much for depth of engagement or intellectual maturity, it's easier to just ban. And of course, the challenges are quite often led by Christians. They fear a word, or sex, or different belief system, or other culture, or imagination, or difficult life scenario and they move to prevent a book being read. It is not about understanding, or love, or respect, it is about getting their own way and imposing their belief system on others. On that issue, I found this quote from Judith Krug's article "Harry Potter and the Censor's Flame" interesting -
The campaign to keep the Harry Potter series out of the hands of children continues, led most recently by a Gwinnett County, Ga., mother who believes the series is an "evil" attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion. She wants to replace the books with others that promote a Judeo-Christian world view, like the "Left Behind" series. I believe, in fact, that what some parents and adults find most threatening about the Potter series is what engages young minds and fires the imagination of young people- Rowling's willingness to deal with the truth that adults in children's lives can sometimes be unthinking, authoritarian, and even evil. The best books always have raised questions about the status quo - and are the most threatening to censors who want to control what young persons read and think about. Like the tyrannical Defense Against Dark Arts Professor Dolores Umbridge, who insisted on providing a "risk-free" education to the young wizards at Hogwarts, they would limit education and information to facts so incontestable that they arouse no controversy at any level, thereby leaving young people unequipped to think about and address larger questions about the nature of our society.
A risk-free, unthinking life is a scary thing. Maybe that's what Christians want, maybe its what the government wants - mindless, unthinking, unreflective, uncaring drones who do whatever they are told without question. I don't know. Maybe someone should write a book about that - oh wait, they have and it's been banned...
So what's your favorite banned book?
Labels: Culture, Education