In case you weren’t aware, it’s Banned Books Week right now! An annual event from the American Library Association, Banned Books week celebrates “the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.” These are important things! Censorship, in most cases, is stilting and leads only to frustration and ignorance. However, it also makes things enticing. While this is hardly an original thought, it’s undeniable that banning or censoring something only makes it more desirable to those being denied the knowledge or access. One could even argue that it encourages would be non-readers to pick up a book or article simply because they know they’re not supposed to.
My own affinity for seeking out banned books started when I was in junior high and came across Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers, edited by none other than YA censorship queen, Judy Blume. I remember not even knowing, at the time, that books and writers were still banned. My only conception of censorship came from history class or photos of letters to the home front in WWII with words and information precisely chopped out, rendering the missile something of a paper snowflake. Surely these things didn’t happen in my lifetime. But it did, and still does in many places—schools and libraries especially. I can understand a guidance system, similar to movie ratings, say, where young children wouldn’t have access to racier topics, but outright forbiddance is unacceptable.
In any case, it was with excitement that I bought Places I Never Meant to Be and raced through it’s contents, hardly feeling scandalized by the writing, but sensing a little thrill of deviousness nonetheless. These were stories by people you weren’t supposed to read. I’ll admit, I felt a bit superior, having devoured already Judy Blume’s oeuvre and books by a couple of other included authors as well. We had just gotten our first computer, and so with this new world of home internet, I looked up lists of other banned books and counted off ones I’d heard of or read, scoffing at the craziness of some people.
While it’s fought at every turn, censorship and book-banning is still very much a part of our world, though I imagine it’s getting more and more difficult with the ever increasing permeation of the internet and other electronically accessed sources. Do you have a strong argument against–or who knows, even for–censorship? Are there any books that you love that were discovered only after you learned that they were banned?