Missing Banned Books Week

So I went on a cruise to Bermuda at the end of September. It was wonderful and there will eventually be a drink by drink article about the trip (of course), but before I get to that, I need to take a moment to address something that slipped past me while I was running around packing and making my rum priority list for this recent vacation. The last week of September was Banned Book Week.

Highlighting Banned Book Week hasn’t been a truly “traditional” feature on The Magical Buffet. I intended every end of September to bring attention to Banned Book Week, the way every October I highlight Breast Cancer Action, but alas Banned Book Week was only on the site in 2007, 2009, and this year I’m late. Oops!

In case this is all news to you, let me direct your attention to the American Library Associations website to bring you up to speed:

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.
The first year I mentioned Banned Book Week here at The Buffet, I listed some examples of books that had been banned or challenged on religious grounds. Last year I gave readers a link to a nifty map from the Banned Books Week website showing book bans and challenges from 2007-2009. That map is still up and now reflects 2007-2010. Since this year’s Banned Book Week snuck up on me (You know, by occurring at the same time each year.) that instead of digging up new lists or widgets I would take a moment to dip my toe into the muddy waters of the book burning debate.

I believe in burning things in protest, as long as it’s done safely as to not harm people or property. If you hate me, feel free to burn an effigy of me; it certainly beats being set on fire. You don’t like our country, our policies, or other sundries, burn the American flag. Have at it. Ladies, still feeling the yoke of oppression? Burn as many bras as you’d like. I won’t be joining you. As I get older I depend more and more on adequate under wire support, and as a liberated woman, I can choose to have my breasts lifted in a vain attempt to pretend they’re still my breasts from high school. I may sound a bit like a fire bug, but I have a line….

It is never cool to burn books. Period. I get it, Harry Potter is a magic user, Islam is “different”, the end of “Brave New World” sucked (Hmmm…..I may be the only one who has considered the “Brave New World” book burning event.), but regardless of my personal thoughts on the content in a book, I would never condone the act of destroying someone else’s thoughts and expression. I know I’m a “liberal” and/or a “progressive” and/or a “socialist” (as the kids are saying these days), so I know my thoughts probably aren’t surprising any regular readers, however, in these tumultuous times, perhaps it’s a good idea to sit down and decide where our individual boundaries lie. I know that every person has the right to express themselves through the symbolic burning of books, and I wouldn’t stop you, but I’d hope you wouldn’t do it.

My friend once said, in character at a roleplaying game session I was at, that “information must be free”. Oddly, that fictional character’s exclamation has informed much of thoughts regarding our First Amendment and issues with freedom of speech and expression. When a book is banned, a population is deprived of the thoughts and ideas expressed by the author. In my mind, there is nothing more final than instead of banning a book opting to burn it to ash. It just doesn’t seem like freedom to me.