This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 23 to September 29 and in true book-and-idea lovin’ fashion, the Free Library is ready to celebrate the freedom to express and share all types of knowledge—even ideas that some people view as unconventional.
The Free Library continues to support the right to read the incredible and meaningful books that have earned our well-deserved love. Banned Books Week combats and highlights the damage of censorship.
Reading a book may seem like a silent affair, but don’t be fooled—written ideas, stories, themes, symbols, and characters are meant to be heard.
Banned Books Week kicked off in the 1980s amid the 1982 Island Trees School District v. Pico Supreme Court case. The Supreme Court officially ruled that school officials are not allowed to ban books due to their content.
But, all types of books continue to be banned even today. Common themes that land these stories in the dog-house are profanity, sex, LGBTQ characters, drug use, alcohol use, same-sex relationships, violence, and more.
I know, I know—basically every interesting, valuable, and truth-telling book ever.
Often, books are challenged by parents or religious groups that deem their content offensive or inappropriate, usually after discovering it in a school’s curriculum. There seems to be a fear that students or young children will mimic the mistakes of the protagonist or the frowned-upon behaviors. Or, quite simply, young individuals should not be exposed to so-called risqué ideas at all because they’re somehow dangerous.
From The Diary of Anne Frank to The Sun Also Rises to The Hunger Games, all types of books have been banned or frowned upon for some reason or another. But, the themes found in banned books often ring incredibly true to reality. Banning a book due to "inappropriate content" can create a slippery slope away from enlightenment and towards censorship.
When scrolling through lists of banned books, I always find stories listed that have given me personal solace in the past. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye always brings tears to my eyes, making my heart swell, but put the white standard of beauty that I’ve battled as a woman of color since I was young into the perfect mix of delicate and violent words. The angst of my teenage years, sometimes overwhelming and soul-crushing, seemed to lighten and ease after reading The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (it’s normal to be crazy moody and confused as a teenager?!). Not to mention the Harry Potter series—a collection of books that not only ignited my love of reading, but helped me escape to a fascinating world with incredible characters, when life seemed a bit too much to handle.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said:
"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."
Let books build communities.
Let them challenge your thinking.
Let them remind you that you’re not alone.
Let them introduce you to new ideas.
Let them help you grow and learn about the crazy world that surrounds us.
So, go ahead, Library Lovers! Grab that banned book and enjoy the sweet taste of that forbidden fruit.
I’m almost certain you’ll find it satisfying.