It must be late September; articles and posts about Banned Books Week are starting to pop up. Now if you know me or have followed my blog for even a little while, you know that I’m a voracious reader. You also know that I have a slight leaning towards freedom and against earthly authority. Therefore you might think that I’d be an eager participant in Banned Books Week, making a sign and heading down to my public library to celebrate the triumph over censorship.
Well guess again. I dislike Banned Books Week. I find the idea silly, vapid, and dishonest. Let me count the reasons.
First of all, the title is false advertising. The week centers around a list that the ALA publishes each year of the most frequently “challenged” books. In this case, challenges are when anyone demands that a particular book either not be required reading in the classroom, or not be in a school library, or not be in a public library. In other words, none of the books in question are actually in any danger of being banned. Even in the rare instance where someone gets a book removed from a school or library, anyone can easily purchase that same book at the nearest bookstore. If the nearest bookstore is too far away, amazon.com is as close as your computer. So there are no banned books in any way associated with Banned Books Week.
My second reason for disliking Banned Books Week is that it’s really just a publicity campaign for successful, popular books from major publishers. ALA creates its list by counting the books that get the most challenges. Obviously, a book can only get a large number of challenges if it’s on the shelves in a great many places. In that way, Banned Books Week only serves to create hype for books that are already extremely popular. Too popular, in some cases, since many of these books aren’t very good. (Twilight is on the list, for instance.) Meanwhile, better books languish on dusty shelves.
Third, Banned Books Week is inherently biased, and in a really immature way. To see what I mean, try reading this post on a blog with the charming name of “Insatiable Booksluts”. The basic gist of the post is that when people challenge books, it’s always because the challengers are racist, sexist, or otherwise -ist, and that by picking up that dangerous copy of Their Eyes were Watching God, we’re somehow sticking it to the white, male, rich, non-drug-using power structure.
I find this attitude absurd. Banned Books Week was created and is run by authorities, so it’s ridiculous to think that you’re sticking it to the man by participating. I’ve no idea who is really challenging books the most–although this map on the official website suggests that the majority of challengers live in the blue states, while the reddest parts of the nation have few flags–but more importantly I disagree with the larger premise. The premise behind Banned Books Week is that it’s always wrong for anyone to challenge a book, even if the challenge consists of not wanting their children to be required to read it in class. But that is not wrong. It is entirely right that parents and others should want to keep a watchful eye over what their children read, as well as watch or listen to. It would be bad, borderline neglectful parenting to not do so. I am entirely a supporter of free speech, which is necessary for the preservation of a free nation, but I am an even stronger supporters of good parenting, which is even more necessary for the preservation of a free nation. So therefore I challenge you to boldly ignore Banned Books Week, to defiantly not bake muffins for your local library staff, and to heroically stick your thumb in the eye of authority by not reading The Hunger Games.