Banned Books Week: Challenging censorship
Every year I am saddened by how many books still remain challenged or banned from various schools and libraries. According to the American Library Association, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since the inception of Banned Book Week in 1982.
These banned and challenged books aren’t just dusty old novels protested by someone’s great-grandparents. In 2017 only, 416 books have been challenged. (A challenged book is when a group or individual attempts to remove or restrict materials while a banned book is that actual removal of that object.)
Don’t think that the Adirondacks has escaped scrutiny. Theodore Dreiser wrote his 1925 classic “An American Tragedy” based on the 1906 murder case of Chester Gillette. (Gillette lured his pregnant girlfriend Grace Brown to Big Moose Lake where she drowned. Gillette was later tried and convicted for her murder.) Dreiser’s book was banned in Boston in 1927 when it apparently presented a danger to the “morals of youth.” The same book was burned in 1933 Nazi Germany for its theme of “low love affairs.”
My daughter asks how one book can be banned and not another. We discuss the setting and timeframe of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which was written in 1960, but takes place just after the Great Depression. By banning books such as this do we further promote injustice, racial slurs, and white supremacy by hiding a past that makes us uncomfortable? Without the ability to discuss the grave issues of this book, would we be able to look at the 2017 Charlottesville Riot in the same way?
My child is able to draw comparisons between restricted materials and when the Nazis censored books in The Book Thief. She mentions family members who shunned J.K.Rowling’s seven-book Harry Potter series due to religious conflicts.
My family reads for the entertainment as much as for the conversation. Reading has always been something that is shared and discussed. We recommend books to each other and we accept that we won’t always like what we read, but we try to find out why. This year’s Challenged Book List has a theme. The top ten books deal with sex education, LGBTQ characters, language, and teen suicide. I’m not suggesting that you don’t monitor what your children read, but I do suggest having conversations about it. Banned Book week is Sept. 23 29, 2018.
Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.”
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