With the recent spate of violent reactions to “Innocence of Muslims” in the Arabic world, discussions on censorship, hatred, and ignorance have gotten heated. An ugly mess of intolerance ensued on both sides, including comments about some Muslim societies’ unfamiliarity with ‘free speech.’ This week, America celebrates “Banned Book Week” and gets to take a good (week-)long look in the mirror.
We all know that book banning has a happy history of its own in the U.S. — see the American Library Association’s detailed list of banned books in America. And really, it's still an ongoing problem—just look at the Brooklyn Library’s removal of TinTin au Congo from the public shelves (it’s pretty demeaning, but does point out well how unthinkingly racist earlier generations were). In 2008, high school English teachers in New Rochelle ripped out pages of Girl, Interrupted because of their “sexual content and profanity.”
To celebrate Banned Book Week, the American Library Association will be hosting its “50-State Salute to Banned Books Week,” (webpage) featuring videos commemorating how each state exercises its freedom to read. The Banned Books Virtual Readout will show videos of people reading their favorite banned books (this could lead to some seriously raunchy readings, people) around the country. And on Thursday, the New York Public Library will host a discussion with Mike Edison (previously editor of High Times magazine) and Gary Lucas.
So let’s warm up with a look at just a few of the most laughable cases of books’ being banned, challenged, or destroyed in our history:
1984 — Fahrenheit 451 — The Giver
These three books are going together under “censored books that are themselves about the destructive effects of censorship and oppressive control.” You can only look like Big Brother after denying people these books. Honestly, would you rather be the kid who at least gets to experience the memories in The Giver
or a goddamn ‘Birthmother’!
Given our nation’s desperate fear/weird love
of teen sexuality, this seems like ripe material for ‘most-banned book in the country.’ There must certainly be more, but the ALA lists only 2 cases of Lolita
being challenged, and only one of those occurred in the US! Don’t get us wrong, this book rules; but somehow, the novel where a grown man has sex with an adolescent and admits to having a certain fondness for “nymphets” has not gotten as much hate as Go the Fuck to Sleep
? You really dropped the ball on this one, America.
Lord of the Rings
None of this even exists, why were the novels about knights, elves, hairy-footed hobbits and rings being burned in New Mexico in 2001? Duh, ‘cause they’re Satanic.
Was at one point removed from a California high school library as a protest against its “sexual content.” Yeah, there’s sex, but I can probably think of one or two slightly more horrifying things from that book. Are these censors even reading these books to begin with?