Did you know that The Hunger Games had made it to the most challenged books list? Yeah. I didn’t know that, either—until now. Banned Books Week 2012 kicks off this Sunday.
This year marks the thirtieth year that Banned Books Week has been taking place. Books have been challenged for their queer content, pornographic content, and offensive language, among other things. Even classics like Naked Lunch (Burroughs), The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien), and The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger) have been banned. James Joyce’s Ulysses was banned for sexual themes in four separate countries: the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and England. Naked Lunch was banned by Boston courts! Who woulda thought? Not me.
When books are banned, both readers and authors are getting censored. Imagine that you loved the first novel in the Harry Potter series, went to a library so that you could get the second one, only to be told that it was banned. If people miss out on books because they’ve been banned, their freedom of speech isn’t even getting an opportunity to be exercised. If teachers aren’t able to teach these books, students won’t be able to understand them, and they’ll be eliminated completely from any kind of future literary discourse. It is as if these books never existed. But they do exist, and they will continue to exist because of Banned Books Week.
Sometimes, banning books can even have an adverse effect. People will read these books because they’ve been banned. This is great, and might even get people who don’t have an interest in reading to pick up a book and read it—the allure the forbidden is always interesting, and banned books are no exception.
Despite the banning of classic books, people are still reading. In Harvard Square alone, there are at least five bookstores, and there are countless libraries in and around the Boston area. This many libraries and bookstores exist in Boston for a reason: we like to read, and we’ll be damned if we can’t keep and savor that freedom to express our opinions about the books that we like, even if they’re banned. Because of this, Bostonians need to celebrate Banned Books Week.
Just because you’ve been told you can’t do something isn’t a reason to stop, so if you’re a grown-up reading a Harry Potter novel that’s been banned in your local library—keep doing that!
In conjunction with Banned Books Week, a read-out (which can be found here) is in its second year, and will also be occurring from September 30th to October 6th.
If you believe in freedom of speech, get out your banned books and read!