Sunday Salon – Banned Books Week


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.

Banned Books Week

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.

Grounds for Challenge

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.


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Sunday Salon

17 responses to “Sunday Salon – Banned Books Week

  1. Interesting pie chart! I’m surprised that language rates so high.

    • Yes, it is interesting what different people perceive as “bad” language. The use of certain words on TV and in movies has changed over the last decade.

  2. Since there’s no Banned Book Week in my country, I just kind of invited myself to join you all online! I think that the chart is interesting too. Some of those things have such uncertain definitions – what is “anti-family”, exactly? I probably actually don’t want to know :S

    • Nymeth – “Anti-family” is probably the a term used by the christian right to indicate anything outside their version of the “nuclear family”. It is the one of the reasons homosexuality is so threatening to them.

  3. I’m so excited about this week! I’ve been reading banned books all month in preparation!

  4. Love the pie chart. I guess in my mind, if people want to ban books, they will find a reason. They pull books off our shelves at school just because of the way the cover looks, believe it or not.

  5. To me, that pie chart illustrates how prudish and close minded our society can be. And how scared people are of anything that threatens what they consider right.

  6. A while ago I tried to find a list of 13 banned Canadian books, in an effort to combine Banned Books Week with my Canadian Book Challenge. While there have been an occasional target (most often Atwood’s “Handmaid’s Tale,” I was pleasantly surprised not many of ours have banned. I’m pretty sure it’s not that our books don’t always play it safe, either. Still, I support the Banned Books Week initiative.

    • John – I’m going to try and reread “The Handmaid’s Tale” for the Canadian Book Challenge. There may not be many Canadian banned books but there is the issue of covers and titles. Lawrence Hill’s “Book of Negros” being one example.

  7. Wow, that pie chart is really interesting. Thinking about some of the most famously-banned novels, I wonder which categories they most often represent…like, do people find Huckleberry Finn to be more problematic for “racism” or “language”? Also, it’s kind of hilarious that “nudity” is a separate category from “sexually explicit.”

    I’m endlessly fascinated by the censoring/expurgating mentality. Thanks for the reminder about Banned Books Week!

  8. Some of these terms are so vague and subjective! What the heck does “anti-family” mean? And “insensitivity” and “unsuited to age”?

    • E.L. Fay – I agree, the terms are vague and subjective but I think people are looking for ways to ban books they find threatening to their own values. There is also the issue of “protecting children”, wanting schools nd libraries to do their “parenting” for them.

  9. Interesting post — and week! I’ve heard about it a few times now in the book blogging world. So, next to this newsflash, what are your plans for BBWeek?

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