In my chaotic life this fall, I missed Banned Book Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read, and to not have any particular group of people take away our reading choices.
After reading recent blogs about book banning and engaging in an insightful discussion with other writers this week, I’ve been giving the issue some thought, and will probably need to do more as time passes. As you can imagine, many of the banned books are centered around diversity, sexuality, and gender. I completely support any author’s genuine attempt to explore these issues in a thoughtful manner.
I cannot support authors who would write about these topics through hate-filled diatribes. But would I go as far as to have any book like that banned from my local library? I would never want to see a book that encourages or glorifies terrorism or sexual exploitation on any bookstore’s shelves, but would I boycott the store? Maybe. Although I’m not a lawyer, I’m told that there are laws against encouraging the intent to commit a crime, such as a how-to book on building a bomb, for example. Happily, I’m not likely to find such material in my local library or bookstores, which is where I find most of my reading material.
But here’s the conundrum. Should I defend another person’s right to read what they want, even if they prefer books that contain graphic rape scenes, a topic which I find abhorrent? That’s the issue I grapple with. I live in Canada. We believe in freedoms and diversity for all, but we all have personal moral lines that cannot be crossed, and sometimes they’re difficult to see and define.
What about the novels written decades ago that depict common racist, misogynistic, homophobic attitudes of the times? Personally, I believe they need to be read because if we don’t learn and understand the past, we are doomed to repeat it. A classic example of this is one of the most commonly challenged books by those who want to ban it. To Kill a Mockingbird. You can see the list of most challenged books in 2017 HERE.
Another interesting blog identifies several banned books that readers read again and again. Those titles include Lolita and 1984, you can see the whole list HERE.
I’m going to read more banned books in honor of the freedom to read, and I’m going to review them and keep reading all types of books, banned or not, because this is my right in this wonderful democracy where I live, and for that I’m truly grateful.