I start my days with checking in on Facebook. This is probably not very wise since Facebook is the epitome of a black hole for time. Nevertheless, I started out this Monday morning with a scan of my news feed and spotted the post which said that Banned Books Week started on Sunday the 22nd. That’s this week!
It seems a little sad that I have never heard of this awareness campaign before this year. It seems as if it ought to be something every reader (and writer) should be aware of. The practice of banning books is not a new thing. Humans have been attempting to censor the written word from almost the very day the first written word was produced for public consumption. The American Library Association sponsors the campaign in the United States and has done so since 1982! Banned Books Week is intended to raise awareness of books banned or challenged by different entities and promote intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstores.
Imagine my horror, when perusing the list of banned and challenged books, discovering that “Alice in Wonderland” is on the list as having been challenged at one point or another in history. According to bannedbooks.world.edu, the challenge to Carroll’s nonsensical, literary romp is that it “contained expletives, references to masturbation and sexual fantasies, and ‘derogatory characterizations of teachers and religious ceremonies.’” I found myself thinking back what I remember of Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass and I scarcely remember anything of the sort – do you? The only thing I do remember about it was the Queen of Hearts using flamingos as croquet mallets and lopping off the heads of anyone who managed to displease her in any way. As the article on bannedbooks.world.edu stipulates “Royalty being a bit crazed and beheading everyone is part of history. Is this yet another example of revisionist history?” I’d vote “Yes” on that one.
As a reader, I am appalled that we are still doing this nonsense in this day and age and as a writer, I am incensed. I understand that some literature might be a little sensitive for children of particular ages to digest comfortably, but banning the books, removing them from libraries and bookstores feels judgmental and supercilious. By all means enforce parental/adult guidance and supervision, but don’t remove the books completely. (And incidentally, isn’t reading within the context of school literature classes the very definition of adult supervision?)
This week in protest to this purely selfish and prohibitive practice, I am picking a book listed on the Banned/Challenged book list to read this week (in spite of having a few other books awaiting my attention) – maybe even specifically one on the list for the year 2012–2013. It’s already more than 2 days into Banned Books week 2013, but there’s still time to make your decision and get started. Check out the lists, find a book you’ve always wanted to read, or have read and enjoyed multiple times, and give it a read in protest this week. Help us speak out in support of the freedom to read (or write) whatever we want without censorship.