September 26-October 3 is Banned Books Week in the United States. I don’t imagine I need to preach to those of us who are book bloggers; our delight, our passion, our mental and spiritual growth, and our sense of connection to the world and those around us can often be found in the very books that others want to take off school and library shelves forever. It’s hard for us to imagine.
If you look at the ALA list of the most challenged books for 2008, however, nearly all of them are YA and children’s books (Gossip Girl, TTYL, And Tango Makes Three.) This makes sense, of course. People who want to ban books don’t want to challenge books they themselves would read. It’s all about the children. Somebody protect the children!
But here’s another take on that. The ALA has a list of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, including books like The Great Gatsby, Kim, Native Son, and To the Lighthouse. Nearly half of these acknowledged classics (albeit modern classics) have also been challenged or banned, many in the last twenty years.
When I worked at Barnes and Noble during graduate school, during Banned Books Week we set up a podium in the middle of the store. Employees took shifts reading aloud from their favorite banned books — everything from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Clockwork Orange to The Color Purple. Customers were welcome to take a turn. This week, I encourage you to read a banned or challenged book, particularly a classic. Read one to your kid. Read it aloud in a public place or classroom. Feature it on your blog. Shine a little light.