Banned Books Week!

by florian.b on flickr

As usual, I’m a little late to the party, but I thought you might be interested to know that from September 25 until October 2 it’s Banned Books Week!

This is an annual event which takes place at the end of September and celebrates the freedom and the right to read.

A couple years ago I read DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover for the first time, a book infamous for having been banned due to its erotic content, harsh language, and love affair between an aristocrat and a working-class man. And you know what? I loved it.

I firmly believe everyone should have the chance to choose what to read for themselves. And I have doubts that censorship works the way people intend it to, anyhow: the stigma of censorship only pushes the banned book in question further into the public’s attention. Besides, who has the right to make that choice for me?

I had a quick peek through the books banned or restricted in 2009-2010 and was startled to see other favourites, amongst which I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Yes, it does have pretty explicit content; it’s a shocking autobiography about surviving rape and racism. But I read it when I was around 12 and the book changed my life. Sure, I wasn’t always comfortable whilst reading it but I wanted to read it, and the world can’t remain sugar-coated forever. And there is a lot of beauty in this book, in how Maya overcomes everything — everything — and succeeds.

There were a bunch of other surprising titles on the lists for rather inane reasons, such as the Twilight series and The Vampire Academy series (including books that have not yet been published), because vampires are too sexy.

Then there was The Diary of Anne Frank, banned from schools for sexual material and homosexual themes. I could see why people might be upset by Maya Angelou, but this book was a true WTF on the list. Which brings me to… the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. A dictionary?! Oh wait, oh noes, it has the term ‘oral sex’ in it. God forbid a dictionary actually define words!

Perhaps it is best to censor myself before I continue rambling for another page or two. :-)

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What banned books have you enjoyed? What do you think about censorship?


About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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6 Responses to Banned Books Week!

  1. Books are banned or challenged for ridiculous reasons. Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” is one such book. Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series is another.

    Though I wasn’t exactly thinking of Banned Books when I picked it up, I just started reading Ogai Mori’s “Vita Sexualis” — turn of the century (published in 1909) Japanese erotic novel that was banned for its frank sexual content. I haven’t read far enough into the book to judge it’s content much, but the foreword tells an interesting story about the way its banning was handled — Ogai Mori was a high ranking individual, the surgeon general of the Meiji era, and the work originally appeared in Subaru, a literary journal he published.

    Because of Ogai’s high-ranking position, the authorities didn’t call out Vita Sexualis in particular (typically, Japanese censors would specify what exactly what being objected to) — they just banned the entire issue that the work appeared in, on the grounds that it “contained content that would deteriorate public morals.”

    • A.M.Harte says:

      What?! “The Giver” was banned? Why? I love that book. And the His Dark Materials series is among my favourite series ever.

      Psh, public morals. Might as well ban all pron.

      • “The Giver” is one of the most challenged children’s books in America, apparently, on the grounds that it encourages euthenasia/suicide/eugenics (ridiculous, since the entire premise of the book is that the Community’s tradition is bad).

        It’s also been challenged because it purportedly endorses Communism (which I can see, but that’s America wagging it’s oh-god-evil-commie-bastards! flag at anything that hints about people actually, y’know, working together for the good of the community).

        I’m not sure anywhere in America has outright banned the book, but it’s certainly been challenged a lot and many parents and church groups have requested that the book be removed from library shelves and/or the classroom.

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