It is Banned Books Week again, the yearly attempt by ALA to inspire outrage over book censorship in America. The only problem is, there IS no book censorship in America. If you start reading about it you will find that what we are actually outraging against are complaints by busybody parents of elementary school students out in the square states. More often than not, the books they complain about are ultimately not even pulled from the shelves. And if we're going to use such a liberal definition of "censorship," librarians, as I've said before, are the worst offenders.
Every year I roll my eyes and complain about how out of touch the ALA is, but this year I am actually offering a suggestion. Instead of focusing on such lame challenges (or "expressions of concern") of library materials, why not highlight our freedom to read by comparing it with actual, real censorship in other parts of the world? For instance, in India The God of Small Things was banned after publication in 1996, earning the author an obscenity trial, and more recently in 2007 a book on Islam was banned there as well. In 2008 a book called The Devil's Discus was banned in Thailand. In fact, here is a whole list of books banned in the authors' native countries. Not to mention the extensive and ongoing censorship of media in China and North Korea.
We could call it something like Freedom to Read Week, which is more relevant and accurate than Banned Books Week, and celebrate intellectual freedom in all its forms. Real censorship DOES happen, in many parts of the world, and that is what we should be learning about if we want to foster appreciation for the freedoms that we have here at home.