Sunday, 20 January 2008

Banned Books Reading

I have seen the button and ongoing reading lists on other sites (thank you to Caribou's mom site http://caribousmom.blogharbor.com/blog/BannedBooks for this button and blog that gave me the final push!!) and have decided that as a reader and as a writer, to start reading banned books. It is abhorrent that we feel the need to ban good literature because it offends someone. One of the purposes of literature - writing - ideas - is to discuss, is to think about the world we live in. Would we ever know about how African slavery has affected millions of African-Americans without Roots? The Colour Purple? Racism - To Kill a Mockingbird? How about Harry Potter books? Farhenheit 451? (These are off the top of my head, I will look at lists tomorrow and add more. I'll add links to lists I find). It is incredible to me that we are so righteous as a society that we cannot permit books that portray negative images to be read by our children. Our children experience alot of these conditions in their daily lives - racism, bullying, mockery, sexual abuse and exploitation, cruelty. Why would we ban books that allow them to find some comfort, that they are not alone in their experiences? How many lives have been saved because a child - an adult - read a book that made them feel someone understood, someone else knew? Alot of these bans are by well-meaning parents and school boards, concerned about what their children are reading - or so they say. I think that what is at stake is freedom of ideas, freedom of truth. A book is one point of view; another book is another's. Neither is fully right, nor fully wrong. Banning books means we are afraid of another opinion, afraid to see ourselves as another sees us. The very best writing and writers tell the truth, about all of us, about the state of the world - not preaching, but revealing. And our attitude to their writing tells us how enlightened and free and open to hearing one another we really are. I would rather, that if I am unable to for some reason, reach my children or someone else's, that there be a way for them to be comforted and understood. I do not, and will not, understand how banning a book prevents children from knowing these things exist.
Sorry if I am ranting, but the very idea of banning a book offends me. I am not talking about books written that trample on other's rights - evil books that spit hatred at others for their race or religion, or use perversion as a means to pleasure and not to reveal, which I think hurt the world by being written, and yet serve a purpose.
I am talking about good books that are honest and tell the truth. We need those books. So I am joining the Reading Banned Books, and for me it is an open-ended challenge, an ongoing challenge. I have to see if any books on my current reading challenges are banned, and then see what I can fit in, but I hope to be able to include 6 banned books this year, as a minimum.
In the same way that reading the Man Booker Prize books - and eventually the Pulitzer Prize winners, etc, plans in the works - will bring to me I hope the best of what we are currently writing, I want the Banned Books to bring me the books that have ideas worth thinking about and discussing.
This is what intellectual freedom is all about. This is part of what our freedom should be about.

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