During the final week of September, avid readers and book lovers everywhere celebrated “Banned Books Week,” a week solely dedicated to the celebration of the freedom to read. Since 1982, more than a thousand books have been challenged including American classics, like J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (which, ironically, is a novel about a society that bans and burns books), and modern favorites like the highly popular “Harry Potter” and “Twilight.”
This celebration is global. In other parts of the world, The Amnesty International sponsors this event to remind people of the great lengths, including death, harassment, and incarceration, that individuals have gone through to express their views in writing.
Throughout history, books have been challenged and banned for including violent, sexual, racial, positive portrayal of homosexual people, and religious content. For example, the American classic by Mark Twain, “Adventures of Huckleberry Fin,” was banned in many schools throughout the country for depicting a disobedient character and the use of racial slurs.
The ALA, one of the sponsors of BBW, believes not all the information contained in books is “good” or even suitable for young children. However, the ALA strongly believes families have the right and freedom to decide for themselves what is appropriate rather than having their choices narrowed down for them.
The best way to celebrate this week is to visit a local bookstore or library. The Library and Media Center at Bellevue College has a display of some popular banned books in honor of the holiday. The librarians are also very eager to share the history behind this widely celebrated event.
“As a librarian, I believe that people should have access to all types of knowledge whether or not the content contains religious beliefs or violence,” said BC’s library faculty member Sayumi Irey. “Banned books contain issues that we must face—that [ultimately] result in social reactions.”
In her opinion, the top most popular banned books on the BC campus are: The “Harry Potter” series, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, and Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“There are multiple perspectives on issues, like abortion. Our job [as librarians] is to provide the information. We only remove books that have outdated information, like old medical literature,” explains Irey. “I believe that the more educated you are, the more open you are to different perspectives. In the past we have had students come up to us and comment on certain texts but we have had no huge controversy. In fact, most of the time students want more [information on the topic]!”
Ultimately, this holiday is the celebration of not only the freedom to read and freedom of speech, but also intellectual freedom, which according to the ALA, is “the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular.” A book has been banned in all 50 states.
Banned Books Week is a week where celebrators around the globe and BC students want to know: Why shut the “Huck” up?