Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Freedom to Read

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.


Annmarie said...

What a great perspective. We get so myopic here in America and think ourselves so wronged all the time. It is important to remember how free we really are, not in a super power kind of way, but an informational way. Great post!

3goodrats said...

Thanks! I thought a productive suggestion would be better than my yearly complaining :)

Kevin said...

I agree with you to an extent, but I would warn against complacency. The belief of some Americans that they have the right to interfere with what some libraries carry on their shelves is a real problem. On the other hand, I do think a Freedom to Read Week would emphasize the positive and possibly win more people over to the cause of intellectual freedom.

3goodrats said...

Kevin, I agree that we shouldn't be complacent, hence the reason I think we should observe *something,* but we need to have some perspective.