Banned Books Week: 5 books almost anyone might want to ban
Even ardent opponents of censorship could hesitate when it comes to titles like these.
Banned Books Week invites a welcome, if predictable, torrent of publicity. “Communities [must] stand up against censorship,” implores the AARP’s Bulletin on Books. “It’s easy to take the First Amendment for granted,” muses Time Magazine. “Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves,” writes the Athens Banner-Herald.Skip to next paragraph
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It is, undoubtedly, an important message.
German poet Heinrich Heine wrote in an 1821 play, “Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people.”
Some 112 years later, Nazis torched thousands of books before training their fire on people.
Throughout history, groups have sought to ban – and burn – books, as if so doing would extinguish the message, the subversion, or the “filth” contained therein. Sadly, it’s hardly a thing of the past. Current events have an uncanny way of mimicking history – remember Terry Jones, the Florida minister who planned to hold a Quran-burning at his Gainesville church Sept. 11th?
There were at least 460 challenges to books in schools and libraries last year, according to the American Library Association. The complaints usually center on sexual explicitness, offensive language, politically subversive ideas, or mature content. And of course, the resistance against such complaints cites First Amendment freedoms and blasts censorship as close-minded, dangerous.
But are the pronouncements that Banned Books Week stimulates simply lip service? Most news stories and editorials commemorating the event assume a glib superiority over those who allegedly raise complaints – small-town, right-wing Evangelicals; prudes and bigots; the politically dogmatic.
What would these same First-Amendment-defenders think of a more provocative list of books – not the relatively innocuous “The Catcher in the Rye” and “And Tango Makes Three,” the oft-cited picture book that landed on a banned list in a school district in Charlotte, N.C.