It’s Banned Books Week and I think we’re supposed to celebrate that.
I find the concept of banning books absolutely fascinating because it’s 1) pointless in modern societies with internet and 2) a unique look into how we form our own smaller, exclusive societies within this larger one.
Books can be challenged by those who wish to see them censored (for whatever reason) to varying degrees. Some individuals want a book removed from a school curriculum, others off the shelves of a library, but the whole point is to remove books from the community. Because communities where everyone agrees, is the same, and nothing is ever offensive are healthy and functional, right?
I haven’t read every book on the challenged/banned list, but most of those that I have read are ones that I am grateful for. I consider myself lucky to have been exposed to new ideas or viewpoints outside of my own–those are the most interesting to me because I’m not familiar with them already. I can’t understand why they were challenged in the first place.
Why do people want to ban books?
The short, obvious answer is content. The long, less obvious answer would require a dissertation on the psychology of censorship behavior in modern contexts. If monsters can be metaphors to our societal fears, perhaps banned or challenged books serve as a proxy for some other societal anxiety–the swing in political attitudes, highlights of parental fears, or changes in attitudes about what kids should be exposed to. That last one is particularly interesting in an era where more and more children under 13 are going to see PG-13 movies with copious amounts of violence but very little sex.
There’s a dissertation idea if anyone needs it.
And with that vaguely-formed thought, I’ll leave you to go read your favorite banned books and be thankful that we live in a time where tubes under the ocean can deliver almost any book–banned or otherwise–in about five minutes.
If you aren’t going off to read, here’s a quote to consider by one author I belatedly appreciated once I left high school:
There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches.
– Ray Bradbury