This week is Banned Books Week. Among this year’s most frequently banned books are To Kill A Mockingbird, Brave New World, and Huckleberry Finn, perennial favorites. These books are routinely challenged by parents in public schools, who complain that they’re too violent, or use the word “nigger” or other such reasons.
Now, as Eugene Volokh has recently been blogging, the American Library Association uses the word “banned” to refer to a school taking a book out of a lesson plan, or removing a book from the school library, on the complaint of a parent. The ALA also uses the word for books being removed from public libraries. This means the books are still available at bookstores or elsewhere. But I think the word “banned” is accurate enough for this, since “banned” is a less exact term than “censored.” These books aren’t being censored, but they are being taken off the shelves because some people don’t want other people to read these books. I think the word “banned” is just fine for such silly and obnoxious activities.
Moreover, Banned Books Week is intended to commemorate victories over more severe cases of censorship in years gone by, such as the censorship of Ulysses or Lady Chatterly’s Lover. And yes, there are still people out there who burn books, because God told them to. If you cherish your right to read, you should celebrate Banned Books Week.
One book I cherish is My Brother Sam Is Dead, by Collier and Collier. It’s a historical novel about a boy during the American Revolution—a boy named Tim, who’s the same age I was when I read the book. Anyone who has ever really loved a book will understand how enraged I get at the idea that someone would seek to dissuade anyone from reading this masterpiece. The same goes for The Handmaid’s Tale, another favorite of mine that is frequently the target of meddlesome busybodies. If you love a book, chances are there is someone out there who has tried to stop someone from reading it.
Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned book!