Are you a groupie, always wanting to be around them, perusing through their “stuff”? With rock stars like Harper Lee, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman … who wouldn’t want to be with the banned?
The last week of September (September 26−October 3) marks Banned Books Week, an annual observance since 1982. It is a time when we remind ourselves of the freedom to read, the freedom to choose specific materials and the freedom of expression. We don’t necessarily have to agree with another’s opinion or like their writing, but this observance is also about not impeding on another’s rights to write about them or read them.
The American Library Association states in its Intellectual Freedom Manual that “intellectual freedom can exist only where two essential conditions are met.” The first condition is that all persons have the right to believe and convey their beliefs in forms they deem appropriate. Second, society allows that freedom by not restricting access to information and ideas of the author and reader.
Some cases of attempted banning include a 1978 case in Eldon, Missouri where a library banned American Heritage Dictionary (1969) because it contained “objectionable” words. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was banned for fear of creating too much individualism and independent thought. It was removed from West Marion High School in Foxworth, Mississippi in 1998.
With the attempts to ban, there are also attempts to keep these literary works on the shelves. Many librarians, teachers, booksellers and parents use these books and Banned Books Week to educate people about our First Amendment rights. They teach others about the importance of society not placing restraints on our freedoms. But we also learn to respect and not squash the rights of others. Our shelves are filled with classics and new books that thrive on these freedoms to exist. As they pass from one hand to another, they leave a legacy of tolerance and respect for the rights and struggles of others.