banned books week
This week is banned book week. Challenged and banned books are celebrated and each individual has the freedom to read whatever they desire. I still smile when I read this excerpt from Harry Potter.
Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.
For some reason, every time Hermione caught sight of one of these signs she beamed with pleasure.
‘What exactly are you so happy about?’ Harry asked her.
‘Oh, Harry don’t you see?’ Hermione breathed. ‘If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!’
– J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page 512)
I remembered this small conversation between Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix after yesterday’s post about censorship in The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. (Yes, I’ve read them enough times to recall certain phrases.) I don’t think this conversation spoils the book if you haven’t read it yet. The basic idea is…
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Today is first of December, so numerous advent calendars and count downs to Christmas have started. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a notice from Banned Books Week on Facebook that announced a Banned Book Advent Calendar. True it’s no longer the last week in September when banned books are celebrated, but the freedom to read should be celebrated all year. The intellectual freedom group FAIFE (Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression) is posting a small video about censorship and banned books every day until Christmas. Here is information from their website:
The project’s participants include leading figures in the library world, who introduce their favourite banned books: Finnish IFLA President-Elect Sinikka Sipilä presents Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian, Kai Ekholm introduces Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Executive Director Jill Cousins of the Europeana Foundation expounds on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Other books include Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Boccaccio’s Decameron and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck.
I subscribe to word a day from wordsmith and a week was dedicated to words associated with censorship of books. In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought it would fun to highlight words you may not be familiar with that are associated with censorship.
Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene
The word was created after Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He crusaded against anything he considered immoral.
1. Approval or authority; imprint.
2. A license to print or publish, especially one issued by a censor of the Roman Catholic Church.
To remove or change parts (of a book, play, movie, etc.) considered objectionable.
After Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), a British doctor, who edited the Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s works. Bowdler believed the original wasn’t suitable for the delicate sensibilities of women and children.
Nihil obstat (noun):
1. Official approval.
2. In the Roman Catholic Church, a statement by a church censor that a book is not offensive to the Church.
1. To mutilate a book by clipping pictures out of it.
2. To illustrate a book by adding pictures cut from other books.
An underground publishing system used to print and circulate banned literature clandestinely.
By Ray Bradbury
Science Fiction,179 pages
I thought Fahrenheit 451 was a good book to start Banned Books Week. The story describes a future society where books are forbidden and firefighters are required to burn all books they encounter. The title refers to the temperature that paper burns. People don’t have their own ideas and don’t discuss what they feel, instead their life revolves around picture walls (television screens) that become their family. One firefighter, Guy Montag, begins to question what are inside the books and why others want them burned. He meets a girl who tells him in the past books weren’t burned and people weren’t afraid. He also meets a professor who tells him about a time when people think. Montag’s fire captain states that without books there are no conflicting thoughts, so it keeps people happy. Montag joins others in the hopes to preserve knowledge and ideas in books.
A futuristic society where books are forbidden is scary and unfortunately it occurs. Perhaps not as bold as burning a house that holds books and written material, but just the act of challenging or banning a book creates a threat that individuals cannot think freely. It’s not possible to make everyone happy, since we all have different ideas. When you shut books you are then shutting minds that creates ignorant people in a society where they can’t think fully for themselves.
Montag’s viewpoint at the start with burning books:
It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. …He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparking whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)
Montag’s viewpoint gradually changes after meeting the girl and witnessing a woman stay in a burning house with her books.
There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.
– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)
Professor discusses the power of books with Montag.
There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.
Reasons for being challenged:
Fahrenheit 451 was never exactly banned, but the book itself was censored into different editions to please others. Words, such as hell and damn were eliminated. Another incident changed a drunk man into a sick man. An interesting twist occurred in 1992, students at a school in Irvine, California, recieved Fahrenheit 451 with blacked out words that others thought were inappropriate. Parents complained and the censored copies were no longer used in the classroom.
100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature by Nicholas Karolides, Margaret Bald, and Dawn Sova
Walk into a buffet restaurant and you’ll find many choices. Grab a plate and pile on your favorite dishes. We’ll pretend that calories don’t count and you have a bottomless stomach for this meal. Select your meats whether it’s roast beef, spicy sausage, meatballs, or barbeque chicken. Perhaps you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t select a meat choice. Continue through the buffet to find pizza, french fries, fruits, vegetables, and even jello. Of course we need room for delicious desserts, such as cookies, berry cobbler, and ice cream. Finish your selections and head to your table to compare your choices with friends. You may see food on a friend’s plate that you didn’t notice at the buffet. Maybe you make a sour face to a food you dislike on someone’s plate. Perhaps you snitch food from others. Buffets often change weekly, so each visit is new.
Instead of a restaurant, you’re now walking into any library, bookstore, school, or garage sale with discount paperbacks. Maybe you decide to ‘walk’ into your Amazon account from the comfort of your home. Depending on the location, your ‘plate’ today is a library card, wallet, school pass, loose change, and most important an open mind. Everyone has different ‘tastes’ when we select books to read. There are endless ‘dishes’ from mystery, romance, science fiction, biography, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, picture books, reference books, magazines, journals, newspapers, history, foreign language, poetry, best sellers, photography, travel, geography, audio books, religion, how-to books, and much more. There’s even subcategories for each book ‘dish’. You can ‘travel’ to different countries with books about its food, landmarks, transportation, geography, historical aspects, and more to fully ‘explore’ the location. Similar to a buffet, you don’t need to select every book. Also, you don’t need to have the same book ‘taste’ preference as your friends. However, friends can always share ‘dish’ recommendations about which books to read next time. Of course, new books are stocked so numerous trips need to be taken to satisfy your ‘hunger’ for books to read.
Banned books week is next week, however we need to celebrate book diversity all year. Individuals should have the freedom to read anything they desire without criticism from others. I’m not going to forbid you from picking a book I dislike. Nobody should have the right for books to be removed from classrooms, schools, and libraries. Often individuals don’t even read the material before deciding if it should be banned. You never know, you may learn something new or gain an appreciation for different perspectives. We all have different book tastes, so allow others to enjoy their choices without judgement. Experience the diverse flavors of a book smorgasbord.
Dare to think for yourself.
Information about banned books week:
In celebration of Banned Books Week next week, you have the opportunity to read your favorite banned books to everyone. There is a YouTube channel that authors and individuals can post videos of themselves reading banned or challenged books. The video reading cannot be more than two minutes. You can also create a video from first hand experience of books being challenged which cannot be more than three minutes. Additional information is found here: virtual read-out.