Monday, September 22, 2014

Dispatch From the Fields: "I object to censorship of any form, and book banning is definitely censorship in my world. ~Joe

It’s Banned Books Week, which for me is a reminder of how precious our freedoms are even in this country, which was founded on personal freedom. There is a constant battle by some people to get books they deem inappropriate in any number of ways banned from schools and libraries. I object to censorship of any form, and book banning is definitely censorship in my world. Here, I am going to muse about some of my favorite books that have been challenged within the few years:
(List courtesy of the American Library Association.)
Anne Frank The Diary of a Young Girl. This one never ceases to amaze me. This book is a classic, and should be regarded as such. It was challenged in Northville, MI, because of the descriptions of her body as it began to undergo the changes of puberty.
Ken Follett The Pillars of the Earth. I admit that I haven’t yet read this book. Many of my coworkers at the Tattered Cover proclaimed this their favorite novel, so I bought it. Now that I know it has been challenged by parents in Troy, PA, who felt the sexual content too much for their high school seniors, the book has risen a little bit more in my estimation.
Marjane Satrapi Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. In my opinion, this book should be required reading. Most American children have been luckily enough to not know the ravages of war first-hand. Here is an excellent, powerful account of war told through images by a young girl living through the horrors of war. But in Chicago the book was removed from the public schools for having “graphic illustrations and language,” among other reasons. Because of student protests on social media, the school board later rescinded the order.
Barbara Ehrenreich Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By inAmerica. Here is a non-fiction book in which the author attempts to live on minimum wage jobs in the United States. Ehrenreich turns most Americans’ view of their country upside down by showing just how hard it is to get by when you’re a have-not here. Several residents in Easton, PA, objected to the book being on their high school’s reading list, describing the book as “of no moral value” and “obscene.” What is obscene is that the inequality in this country, and their wanting to hide this fact from our young people.
William Shakespeare Romeo And Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare).  Some parents are furious that their Liberty, SC, middle school children were asked to read this simplified version of what is considered by most to be foundational literature. I wonder what they would say when they learned that at my Catholic School in 1983, not only did we read the original version of the play in seventh grade, but then we went to the old Cooper movie theater and saw the Franco Zeffirelli version of the movie!
Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five I know this book has been challenged over the years, but a case in Republic, MO, seems especially heinous. A single resident objected to the book because it teaches principles contrary to the Bible. A single resident in a town of over 14,000 residents. Because of this one person’s complaints, the book was first removed from the high school’s library, but later returned and stored in the secure section. And here’s the kicker: now it’s only available for parents to read.

I wish advocates of a free and open press did not have to fight each year against these (sometimes lone) loud voices who work to limit what our citizens of any age can read. By banning books, voices are silenced. By banning books, the scope of our society is narrowed, limited, reduced. I feel grateful that as a child, I was given free rein to read. There were times when I got in over my head, and was lucky enough to have parents who were willing to sit down with me and talk about the things that confused, scared, or confounded me. I could only hope that every young person can explore this challenging and beautiful world through any book they chose.

~ Joe  

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