Read a 'banned' book this week—September 25, 2009
It is once again the time of year that librarians, book sellers, publishers and writers come together to celebrate the freedom to read. September 26 through October 3, 2009 will be observed as the twenty-eighth annual “Banned Books Week.”
The freedom to read has long been seen as a natural extension of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, the freedom to read means not only being able to choose what we want to read but also having access to as wide a choice of reading materials as possible.
It is, naturally, this matter of choice that causes books to be challenged at libraries across the country. What one person enjoys reading may offend another. What one parent may feel comfortable letting a child read may be vastly different from the views of another. Books dealing with sexual topics, strong language and the occult seem to attract the most complaints.
On this year’s American Library Association list of “Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009” can be found several books that raised concerns because of the use of profanity and/or sexual references. These include fiction titles “Dead Folks” by Jon Jackson and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green and the memoir “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen. Also in this group is John Berendt’s mid-1990’s best seller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Titles challenged for introducing occult or non-mainstream topics are often found in the literature written for teens and 3 books from this year’s list follow this pattern. Jonathon Stroud’s “The Amulet of Samarkand” and indeed his whole “Bartimaeus Trilogy” have been questioned for their focus on magic, much like the Harry Potter books were in previous years. Joan Lowry Nixon’s “Whispers from the Dead” treats the spirit world as a normal part of life and Phillip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass” is a high fantasy that was challenged because of its religious interpretations.
None of these titles is new and several of them have won literary awards or prizes, but they all contain ideas or situations powerful enough to offend someone. It is a fundamental cornerstone of a democratic nation that each of us be able to read and make those determinations for ourselves.
Investigate a “banned book” this week at the Hastings Public Library.