Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week

Via Bryan, who got it from Ellroon, I’m reminded that this is Banned Books Week.

Actually, the people behind removing certain books like The Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird from libraries and schoolrooms don’t like to use the term “banned.” According to them, it has negative connotations. They prefer “challenged.” The result is usually the same.

A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or banned from the school curriculum. Since 1990, the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 11,000 book challenges, including 460 in 2009. About three out of four of all challenges target material in schools or school libraries, and one in four target material in public libraries. The Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

Unfortunately, losing the right to choose reading materials for ourselves and our families is a reality in the United States.

Frankly, I don’t care if there are parents out there who don’t want their kids reading certain books. I don’t agree with it, but they’re the ones raising their kids, not me. What I really despise, though, is their presumption that somehow they have the right to tell other parents what their kids can or can’t read. It says a lot more about them as parents if they can’t teach their kids effectively than it does about the schools or the public libraries.

Not only that, it is an attempt to tell authors what they should or shouldn’t be writing and demanding that they crank out the bland crap that passes their muster until all we have to choose from are Sarah Palin biographies and pale imitations of The Da Vinci Code. But we writers are an ornery bunch, and for many of us, nothing motivates us so much as to hear that our books have been banned. You can’t buy publicity like that.