I purchased Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” last week as part of Barnes & Noble’s Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale that they do once or twice a year. Upon returning home I realized that I already owned the book. This was troubling to me. Not only did I own two copies, but I had yet to actually read the book.
Enter Banned Books Week. “The Scarlet Letter” is a banned book. I wanted to read a banned book this week. You do the math. (English majors don’t like math, so I’m certainly not going to do it.)
From the Banned Books Week website: During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2011 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 24 through October 1. Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982. For more information on Banned Books Week, click here.
Eleven. Thousand. Books.
Banned Books Week means a lot to me. As an aspiring writer, I personally celebrate this week. One perk to being an American is that I know I will never literally have a book banned from me where there is no way I’ll be able to access it. An American school could ban a book and it would still be available in stores. In fact, stores LOVE the banned books list in America. They use it to set up feature stands and promote top-selling books. Bonus!
US banned books banner courtesy of DML East’s Flickr stream
That being said, I also don’t like this week. I don’t like it because I find it unfair to tell a person they can’t read something because of the content. Why should we blindfold someone of any age from reading when they’re going to witness and possibly take part in similar experiences existing in literature. With the new age media in the world today, banning a book should be the least of your worries. I’m not a parent, but if I were I would never keep my child from reading Lolita, Harry Potter or 1984 because of their messages. (No, I’m not encouraging parents to read their four-year-old Lolita at bedtime.)
To pick up a book and read its contents is one of the keenest pleasures I have ever known. To say a book cannot be read is to also say that children might as well be locked up and kept away from any possible difference in the world, because if words are a threat, imagine what actions are.
I will get off my soap box now. My goal for this week is to spread the word of literary freedom by wearing a Scarlet Letter-inspired “B” on my clothes to represent Banned Books Week (pictures to come). I will also read the novel and get back to you with my thoughts later on in the week.
How do you feel about banned books?
Also: There is a Banned Books Blog Hop going on right now. It is being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and I Read Banned Books. There is a huge list of participants, so be sure to sign up to win some free books. I’m not giving anything out (didn’t sign up in time), but I’ll be doing a couple blog hops in October.