04 October 2012

Go ahead... read a Banned Book

We take it for granted that we have a Constitutionally-protected right both to Free Speech, and the Freedom to Read.
But remember, freedom requires vigilance.  There are those who would seek to limit what we can read, even here in the United States. 
We're nearing the end of the 30th Annual National Banned Books Week .
Here's the top 20 of the Top 100 Books Banned/Challenged 2000-2009:
1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan

Note that most of these are fiction.  Fiction explores the human condition.  To deny that we are violent, racist, or sexual beings is to be untrue to ourselves as humans.  Reading enables us to reflect on our joys, and our flaws.  To celebrate ourselves, and to challenge ourselves to behave better toward one another.
One of the most egregious cases of censorship on my radar these days is what's going on in Tucson Unified School District.  Educate yourself.

Our nation was founded on widespread literacy; printers up and down the Eastern Seaboard were able to share ideas and information quickly (for the era) - the 18th Century Internet, if you will.  Which pieces of writing are truth, which are opinion, and which are out-and-out lies?  Then and now, it's OUR responsibility as readers to decide.

Freedom includes everything.  Take a deep breath.  You can handle it.
  • You thought 50 Shades of Grey was racy?  Try Anne (Roquelaire) Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy, Anais Nin's Delta of Venus or Little Birds, or Marquis de Sade's Justine.  
  • Hitler's Mein Kampf or Mao's Little Red Book
  • You can read about the Ku Klux Klan or the Black Panthers
  • Books by Bill O'Reilly or Chris Matthews. 
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder or Judy Blume. 
  • Books that extoll or disparage organized religion of each and every denomination.

Remember, nearly everything in print is objectionable to somebody.  The thought of reading Mein Kampf kind of turns my stomach.  But like they say, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."  If today's Tea Party seems uncannily like the John Birch Society, it might be nice for me to know what they're talking about.
Here's an encouraging anecdote, and reason #279 why I like living in Maine.
Check out this map, a portion of the interactive "Mapping Censorship" map:
All those blue flags represent communities where books have been banned or challenged in schools or libraries since 2007.  Maine has just one.
"(Lewiston, 2008) Robie Harris'  It's Perfectly Normal: A Book about Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health was removed by a patron because of her objections to the book's sexual content. Other patrons donated 4 copies of the book, which remain in circulation today."
I'm grateful to live in a country that is free, and especially in a state where those freedoms are held particularly sacred.

Celebrate your freedom this week, and every week. 
Read a Banned Book.

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