So as you may or may not know, this year’s Banned Book Week ran September 21-27. Banned Book Week gives us an opportunity to discuss censorship and literature and to celebrate reading in all its forms.
Banned Book Week may be over, but it’s never too late to talk about these ideas. This year I created a few calligraphy bookmarks that take quotes from some of my favorite banned books and put them together in groups that I think illustrate some of the reasons the books are banned in the first place (power and social justice, love and relationships, and adventure).
I always take opportunity of banned books week to read or reread a banned book. As the title “challenged book” suggests, these titles are ones that are controversial and stir people’s passions. Many people believe that children especially should not be presented with this material as it is difficult and often challenging to one’s fundamental beliefs about the world. But this is exactly the reason these books are some of the most important works of our time. Many of the books people cite as more appropriate for children, like the works of Dickens or Shakespeare challenge some of these same beliefs and say similar things, they’ve just been accepted by society at large over time.
We read challenged books because they have something to say about our struggles as human beings. They provoke us to think critically about the world around us, get us to ask questions and yes, sometimes they put our beliefs on the line. We should be encouraging people to think critically about the world around them and about their society in particular. People shouldn’t be afraid of thinking–just the opposite should scare us. If the beliefs we hold are valid, they should stand up to just this type of challenge, and if they don’t–then they really did need to be looked at more closely.
But beyond what these books teach us, how they can change our lives if we let them, they are also expressions of art. And these works of art are a vital part of our culture, and shouldn’t be ignored any more than we should shut up a Picasso or a Pollock. After reading, we can evaluate the work of art of course, but that doesn’t mean it should be censored or shunted aside. It is worthy of consumption, evaluation, and perhaps appreciation.
If we don’t read banned books, we lose the greatest works of our greatest writers. We miss ideas that both elevate us and that bring us down to our most animalistic natures. The content of the individual work is ultimately of minimal importance. What’s more important is how we’re taught to read it.
And so ends my little rant on the importance of banned books. To learn more about banned book week and which books are banned, check out the American Library Association’s page.
To take a closer look at my bookmarks honoring these great works, head over to my Etsy page.
What’s your favorite banned book?