Opening up the WordPress homepage in my browser, about to write a review I was distracted by a featured post from what looks to be rather a fab book blog The Insatiable Book Sluts. Firstly what a brilliant name and wow, what great combination of entertaining + thoughtful content and a pithy sense of humour.
Anyway, their most recent post What subversives are you reading has made me aware that Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, The American Booksellers Association for Free Expression, and The National Coalition Against Censorship is running from 24th September-1st October. I’ve never heard of this – probably because it’s American. Also I never realised just how many associations needed to be set up in the US especially to lobby against censorship!! There is also a UK Banned Books website too by the way.
US banned books banner courtesy of DML East’s Flickr stream
Realistically I’m probably not going to squeeze in any additional reading especially for Banned Books Week. I am not even halfway through Daphne by Justine Picardie in preparation for the Discovering Daphne readalong that Savidge Reads and myself are running in October (starting with her first book The Loving Spirit – which I haven’t read yet and need to by 1st October), and have my book group read for Riverside Readers Dark Matter by Juli Zeh. However I will certainly having a little think about the banned or challenged books that I’ve read in the past.
Curiously some of the banned books I have read such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and Lolita I knew had been banned but in my naivete, I never realised that books like The Grapes of Wrath, or Catcher in the Rye, or The Great Gatsby (for goodness sakes!) had been so controversial at the time of publishing.
Did you know, that Jack London’s Call of the Wild was burned by the Nazis for being too socialist, that The Diary of Anne Frank was banned in the Lebanon for being too favourable towards Jews, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was banned in China’s Hunnan province for portraying animals on the same level as humans?
Quite honestly, censorship makes me feel a little bit queasy. In my view people should be able to choose what they do and do not want to read themselves and with children, it is the responsibility of the parents, not the state. For example, should Mein Kampf be banned? I would think that most people would feel uncomfortable reading it in public (brown paper cover anyone?) but it has it’s place in history . Though people with racist or far-right opinions might find it feeds their own existing views I don’t believe someone who starts out a moderate thinker would really be ‘turned’ to support Hitler’s views unless they are at least in part pre-disposed in the first place. Strongly secular people might wish that The Bible was banned for example as – look at the cult following that one has (Joke) – and that would considered a massive violation of people’s religious freedoms.
Banned Books Decal from Cafe Press
Isn’t it unfeasible to expect governments to try to stop someone reading it or being impressed by a book? This is why we have a national curriculum to help put events from our past in context and broaden not narrow people’s views so that they can come to what we hope is an educated and informed point of view rather than trying to control people’s thoughts (like in Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, another banned book!). I believe that exposing ourselves to a myriad of reading experiences makes us more thoughtful and open minded. Many of the banned books that I have read in the past have been wonderful books, books that have challenged me, opened my eyes to problems in society, racial tensions, bitter struggles.
Anyway, call me contrary, but doesn’t banning a book only make it more intriguing?
What banned books have you read? Will you take part in Banned Books Week? Do you think there is ever a case for censorship?