banned books week

September 26 to October 3 is Banned Books Week, which celebrates the freedom to read.

Freedom to read is intimately related to one of our most basic and important freedoms: intellectual freedom. The freedom to think and express our thoughts - without religious, governmental, societal, familial or any other type of barriers or constraints - is a human right. And it's a human right that is constantly abridged or attacked somewhere on this planet.

In the US, the top ten books that were banned or challenged in 2008, are listed here. You can also click on the top ten list going back to 2001, along with lists by title, author and such.

The American Library Association has a map of book challenges reported in the US in 2008, organized geographically, although it also says 70-80 percent of challenges are never reported. In case you have some skewed notion of where intellectual freedom is threatened in the United States, click here and wait for it to load.

I'm sorry I didn't mention this sooner, but blame you-know-what. In honour of Banned Books Week, I'm going to read something by Francesca Lia Block, a young-adult author whose honest portrayals of teenage sexuality frequently land her work on the List. And whose excellent writing and well-published status make me jealous.


Tom said...

I see the gays made the list numerous times. These dumb asses think they can censor us out of existence.

L-girl said...

Oh yeah! Because you know if kids don't read about gay people, there won't be any gay people!

Too bad for them, freedom marches on.

redsock said...

"Think! It ain't illegal yet!"

James said...

September 30th was always International Blasphemy Day, a day to promote freedom of speech and protest the growing number of "blasphemy laws" that have been showing up lately, most notably in Europe and the UN.

The date was chosen to commemorate the publication of the notorious "Danish cartoons" criticising Islam, and the self-censorship by the press that followed.

L-girl said...

Blasphemy day, I like that! Sounds like it should be related to Talk Like A Pirate Day.

James said...

In a way, it is: the Pastafarians (followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) have adopted Talk Like A Pirate Day as a holy day, since one of the tenants of Pastafarianism is that you should at least dress like a pirate.

Pastafarians are often non-theists who are concerned about separation of church & state, so many atheist/freethought/non-theist groups use Talk Like A Pirate Day as an excuse to raise awareness -- dressing as pirates and handing out brochures on establishment clause issues. It's not quite the same as Blasphemy Day, but it's definitely related.

L-girl said...

Very cool! I was thinking of becoming a Pastafarian. If there's no gluten-free sect, maybe I'll start one.

L-girl said...

International Talk Like A Pirate Day Arrrr

James said...

Blag Hag is a member of the Socity of Non-Theists at Purdue University, and she's been blogging about her Pastafarian/Blasphemy activism:

* Purdue's Pastafarian Preaching!
* Purdue Pastafarians make the local tv news!
* Blasphemy Day at Purdue
* Our Blasphemy Day gets positive press in student newspaper

richard said...

You know, we used to get much better banned books, books that went on to change the world. These banned books, meh!

(tongue in cheek... kinda)

L-girl said...

These banned books, meh!

(tongue in cheek... kinda)

So... how many of these have you read, that you know they are "meh"?

Also, chances are you're only remembering the most celebrated banned books of the past. I'm sure plenty of "meh" books were banned in Ye Goode Olde Days as well.

impudent strumpet said...

September 30th was always International Blasphemy Day.

And International Translation Day too.

I'm sure plenty of "meh" books were banned in Ye Goode Olde Days as well.

Research topic: what's the dullest, most forgettable book that has ever been banned?

richard said...

You're absolutely correct, I'm only recalling the better banned books of the past. I'm sure there were a lot of stinkers in the past

The 2008 list has contains at least one book that is reportedly superb and potentially "world-changing" (Kite Runner). But I also see some Teen Lit. that seems rather unremarkable (Gossip Girl? Really?) That's the "meh".

As for your question the answer is... None. Guilty as charged but in my defense I'll say that I don't deal well with graphic violence (leaving a bunch of these books out) and I don't read Teen Lit (leaving out another bunch).

Speaking of censorship I was wondering what, as an Ontario librarian, you thought of this story - http://bit.ly/1SGymc

L-girl said...

As a writer of and huge appreciator of YA books, I'd say that many of those books have indeed changed the world. Catcher in the Rye and the Diary of Anne Frank are two YA books that are consistently banned somewhere, just to throw out two examples. And when you change the world of a young person, you really change the world.

I completely disliked Kite Runner. Nice idea, but not much of a book.

I'll be happy to look at that link, but I'm not even close to being a librarian yet! I'm only 3 weeks into my degree! :)

L-girl said...

That's an easy one for me: no filters, ever. If they want to make a rule about printing, maybe they can do that. But you can't and shouldn't police what people do on the internet in libraries.

Not sure why someone interested in child porn doesn't invest in a home computer, but hey.

I'll also note that although child porn is undeniably a terrible thing, much of what people call child porn is not really. It's an expression often used to demonize all pornography by anti-porn people.

James said...

Not to mention that there is no "right not to see something". If I want to kiss my boyfriend in a public place, but you don't want to see it -- well, look the other way. It's not up to me to accomodate you.

This is akin to the "right not to be offended" that has led to the (re-)establishment of Blasphemy Laws in some places -- the idea that "free speech is all very well, but not if it makes someone uncomfortable". What's the need of laws to protect speech if we're only going to protect speech that no-one's going to object to in the first place?

This is the core idea of Blasphemy Day: offensive speech is not only allowed, it's protected. If my speech offends you, well, you're welcome to speak up and offend me back.

(All that said, I am not claiming that actual child porn is protected speech -- it certainly isn't! I am only addressing the claim that there's a "right not to see something you don't want to see".

Of course, strictly speaking, the article says they have a right to say they don't want to see something, which is true: but it's also true that they still have that right in the library, contrary to what Miller says.)

L-girl said...

When I read that another library patron saw a man printing child porn, I can't help but wonder how closely she looked at the man's pornography to determine the age of the models.

I have no mixed feelings about child porn. It's evidence of a criminal act. But the words "child porn" are so often a red herring in a discussion about free speech or pornography.

John F said...

I just picked up R. Crumb's "The Book of Genesis Illustrated". It is a straight-faced illustration of the text, leaving nothing out. Therefore, I predict that it will be on the list of banned books for 2010. I'm really enjoying it.