From September 23 to 29, it’s Banned Books Week, which raises public awareness of challenged and banned books—in support of freedom to seek and express ideas. Challenges to books are mainly in schools, bookstores, and libraries. I actually forgot about this week, until a blogger, Jeri Walker, posted about it on her blog.
U.S. Book Banning History
During the 1600s, book burning was the way of censorship. In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed, also referred to as “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use.” It criminalized using the U.S. Postal Service for “erotica, contraceptive, abortifacients, sex toys, personal letters alluding to any sexual content or information, or any information regarding the above items. The Act not only restrained the distribution of pornography but also the spread of medical journals that held subsequent information regarding contraceptives and abortion.”
Banning books became more prevalent in the 20th century as authors didn’t refrain from opinions about controversial subjects. In the 1920s, Boston began censoring novels like An American Tragedy, A Farewell to Arms, and Strange Interlude. This tipped off local opposition, who complained about Boston’s repression of literary works, but Boston stated it was justified by the U.S. federal political system, where it was the duty of each state to implement their own educational policies. Today, parents and school boards continue to challenge state selections on particular books because they deem the content inappropriate.
Books aren’t necessarily banned, per the first amendment, but controversial book subjects or those that don’t fit into the ‘norm’ of society are suppressed and don’t show up on bookshelves. This can happen through “threats of litigation by powerful interests, reviewers freezing out certain titles, or what happens most often is books are written off as conspiracy theory.”
My Opinion About Literary Fiction vs. No Right to Publication
Some books are creative works of literary fiction. For instance, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This book has been banned various times and in recent years, has seen a rewrite to remove the word “nigger” and replace it with “slave.” Well, first off, this is a historical fiction piece, written when the word “nigger” meant negro. This book reflects the times of early 19th-century Mississippi. Not only is it a mistake to ban because some are offended by the word or think it reflects racism, but it wipes out Twain’s reasoning for putting the word in which is to embody the violence of slavery. The point of books is to provide readers with different periods and ideas. This is one instance where I found myself disgusted that a writer’s words were changed to boost a book’s popularity and help teachers deal with its subject matter.
Then there are books that are not only controversial, but have no right to be published, like The Pedophile’s Guide To Love & Pleasure by Phillip R Greaves II. This book should have never been published. Banning the book isn’t about emotions, but legality and mental illness. Pedophilia is a sickness and a crime, which affects hundreds of thousands of children each year. It should not be glorified or even visible.
Challenged or Banned Books of 2017 (From the ALA Site)
What are your thoughts on Challenged and Banned Books?
Prohibit and Freedom,