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i really love banned books

today, i found out that this week is banned books week. too bad i find this out so close to the end of the week, otherwise i'd have been celebrating. the purpose of banned book week, according to the american library association, is to celebrate intellectual freedom by looking at all of the books that have made a controversial splash in the last century or so. the tagline is, "free people read freely." i have had a great, great interest in book banning in the united states ever since i wrote my 8th grade thesis on mccarthyism (yup, i had to write an 8th grade thesis).

i noticed, while looking at the list, that i had read a quite a number of them. i also noticed that these books were often banned from libraries & schools, and or burned or publicly decried, for being: "racist," "sexist," "misogynistic," "sexually explicit," "profane," "blasphemous." books so denoted included i know why the caged bird sings, the color purple, invisible man, bridge to terabitihia, and to kill a mockingbird.

the outcry against such books honestly tells me that folks just don't read. obviously, these books contain objectionable themes, child abuse, racism, violence...but what should be offensive to these readers is the fact that these things exist in society, and that these books reflect society. to call to kill a mockingbird racist? the book, in totality, takes a clear stand against racism, but you'd have to read it to know it.

and to paraphrase jay-z, i just ask: do you fools read books or just skim through them? judy blume, roald dahl, and toni morrison also made more-than-frequent appearances on the list. the chocolate war. i read many of the books on the banned/challenged list when i was an elementary or high school student, and i can't say i went to especially "liberal" schools. lolita also came up on the list. i was closest to understanding that book...it's obviously about pedophilia, and yet it is brilliant. absolutely brilliant prose, and in that case it's seductive, the reader gets completely engrossed, and the narrator glosses over the ugly parts...then again, it is brilliant, and while i wouldn't recommend it for kids, an adult with a developd sense of right and wrong...well, reading it is a personal decision, and should not be the decision of a library board or government.

freedom of expression, freedom of the press. unfortunately, in the not to distant past in this country, it was not uncommon for books to be burned. the mccarthy era wasn't so very long ago. and for that matter, for my black people, it wasn't so very long ago that black people were forbidden to read, were denied full citizenship on the basis of literacy, so yeah, reading isn't to me as much as choice as it is a responsibility. one that i enjoy fulfilling. anyway, more about banned book week here:


civil disobedience folks! read a banned book. make up your own mind.