We interrupt this Sunday Salon for a special announcement. This week those of us living in the United States are celebrating the freedom to read. Have you read Fahrenheit 451 or The Book Thief? Pay close attention. Book burning could happen anywhere.
September 26-October 3, 2009
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
Banned Books Week is a national celebration in support of the freedon to read and of First Amendment protection. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, libraries and bookstores. Since than over one thousand books have been banned and challenged. These instances of censorship have taken place in every state and in hundreds of communities across the U.S.
People challenge books for all kinds of reasons but most are trying to protect children from language they consider inappropriate or from sexually explicit material. Other challengers are protesting offensive portrayals of religious or ethnic groups. Recently many protests have centered around positive depictions of homosexuality.
The following pie chart of reasons for challenges is from the American Library Association web site.
If you would like to take part in Banned Books Week there are many ways to do so. Organize reading at your local library, school or bookstore, spread the word through your blog, read or re-read a banned book and encourage your friends to read banned books! The ALA has lots of great ideas here.