the north face cycling Books are a window to the world
When I was 11 years old, I took my sister’s copy of “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret,” by Judy Blume to school. I showed my friends the more salacious parts. When someone told on me, there was no outcry from other parents. My teacher explained why it wasn’t a good idea to do this and suggested I put the book away and not bring it back to school.
I protested. After all, we had already had sex education in Science class and we knew all about the things in the book. Threats of calling my mom saw the book quickly disappear into my backpack. The book has been challenged many times over the years as too explicit.
In 1982, Banned Books Week was founded by Judith Krug, a prominent First Amendment and library activist, to promote the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.
I had taken Blume’s book to school a year before its founding. Censoring books in my school district didn’t happen. I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the short story, “The Lottery” in junior high.
In high school, there was “1984,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Lord of the Flies,” “The Color Purple,” “The Jungle,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Heart of Darkness” and “Of Mice and Men.”
When my teacher mentioned “A Catcher in the Rye” had been challenged, censorship became part of classroom discussions. We read it out loud, swear words and all. We felt respected. Teachers accepted we were young adults and could handle such topics. We learned to think for ourselves.
I read “Madame Bovary” as a senior. It’s still one of my favorites. The book was banned for a while in France and Gustave Flaubert was prosecuted for “offenses against public morals.”
In college, I read “Candide,” “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and many more.
From 1993 1999, many people online facilitated the spreading of “Mein Kampf” to people in countries where it was banned. Someone made a text file of the book. There were no chapter breaks. It was crude and unpolished. I still have those files on an old hard drive in English, Czech, Polish, German and Russian.
Several European nations and the Russian Federation had banned “Mein Kampf” as extremist. It’s not well written. It’s full of ramblings that jump from topic to topic. If you want to understand the man who ordered the deaths of millions, it’s an important piece of literature.
It is prohibited to print it in Austria. It is illegal to distribute existing copies. The Austrian “Verbotsgesetz 1947” prohibits glorification or advertising the aims of the Nazi Party,
its institutions or its actions. If it does not constitute a more serious criminal offense, a person can be imprisoned for five to 10 years or up to 20 years if the offender or his actions are considered dangerous.
Three months ago, “Of Mice and Men” was challenged in Idaho. Times, “the book was challenged by community members, including Mary Jo Finney, who said the novella ‘is neither a quality story nor a page turner.’ She and others objected to profanity in the book, including ‘bastard’ and ‘God damn,’ and found the novella, set in California during the Great Depression, too ‘negative’ and ‘dark.'”
The Great Depression literally was a negative and dark time for America.
In a 2011 interview with NPR, Blume said, “When I started to write, it was the ’70s, and throughout that decade, we didn’t have any problems with book challenges or censorship. It all started really in a big way in 1980. It came with the election, the presidential election of 1980, and the next day, I’ve been told, the censors were crawling out of the woodwork and challenging, like, ‘It’s our turn now, and we’re going to say what we don’t want our children to read.'”
Since 1990, the American Library Association has recorded more than 10,000 challenges. That’s 10,000 times someone wanted to dictate to others what is acceptable to read and remove access to knowledge.
The freedom to read is vital for a nation to learn and grow. Young children, with the help of their parents, can decide what is age appropriate for them. If a book is not right for you,
choose something else. Books allow imaginations to soar. Books start conversations and share information. Books change lives. They don’t need to be censored. They need to be read.