Sept. 27th through Oct. 3rd is Banned Books Week. This is the American Library Association's (ALA) 27th year fighting book censorship in this country and that's shameful in any democracy. Considering the fact that the GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin asked her town's librarian about both the procedures for and response to requests to ban books, I thought it was doubly important to bring it up here this year. Ostensibly, these were "theoretical" discussions, but in a country where we supposedly have freedom of speech and freedom to read there are no procedures for banning books (why would you think there were any?) and the only reasonable response to such a request is "Are you nuts, lady? Just put it back on the shelf! Nobody's making you read it." There is no theory. Even asking such questions evinces a dangerous desire to keep other people from reading something you don't like. Saying these were only theoretical discussions does not somehow make those discussions less dangerous or less appalling. Sadly, Sarah Palin isn't the only person in the country who thinks they have a right to tell you what to read.
Libraries and librarians are the front line of defense against all kinds of censorship, and that includes computer access, such as banning children from accessing social networking sites at public libraries. (H/T to Resource Shelf). Librarians and indie book store owners, and writers were three of the few groups to stand fast against the Patriot Act's sweeping intrusions to protect the rights of readers.
And during Banned Books Week, spare a thought for many of the writers suffering imprisonment in other countries for writing what they think or feel or believe. Many are prisoners of conscience or continually harassed for speaking truth to power. Amnesty International has a list of them who need your support, and suggestions about what you can do. Click the link at the beginning of this paragraph. Banning books is first step on the slippery slope to imprisoning writers.
Closer to home, urge your congressional representative to support a bill coming up in congress that would protect American citizens from libel judgments levied against them in other countries, most notably Great Britain, where the libel laws are ridiculously liberal. You can learn more about the situation here, and more about the bill here. New York recently enacted such a law, but it needs to be national to curb the "chilling effect" the threat of libel suits have on publishing houses.
And finally, Here are the ten most banned books for 2007:
1) And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell (Based on the true story of the Central Park Zoo's queer penguins)
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2) The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3) Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4) The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
6) The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7) TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9) It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10) The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group