Save the Books!

“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.” – Epictetus.

I should have mentioned this sooner, but this week is officially “Banned Books Week.”  It’s a celebration of the freedom to read whatever you want, whenever you want.  “Banned Books Week” started in 1982 in response to several challenges to textbooks and other literary pieces in schools across the U.S.  The sudden surge of conservative ideology at that time was a beleaguered backlash against the supposed threat of liberalism.  Some people – mostly of the religious bent – suddenly felt they knew what was proper for the rest of society to read.  But, no society is truly free and democratic unless all people can read and write and all eligible citizens can vote.  Here in Texas, even moderates have had a hell of a time striking back against the archaic conservatives of the state school board, which unknowingly made Texas the laughing stock of the nation and the world.

According the American Library Association, there 326 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2011; many others may have gone unreported.

Here are the 10 most challenged titles of 2011:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism

I still find it amazing – actually appalling – that, in the U.S., nudity and sexuality are considered obscene, while violence – even in the extreme – is viewed with flippant disregard.  Other countries have it right in that they regard violence as the true obscenity.

Please also check out the Literary Freedom Project, which has the same goal.  While this officially only lasts until October 6, we can never let down our guard for the sake of literary freedom.

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