As some of you already know, yesterday (Sept 21) started Banned Books Week, a quiet protest against censorship. You will probably be surprised to see some of the titles on the lists; Lord of the Flies, Where the Wild Things Are, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone… Books that, depending on where you lived or went to school, you grew up with.
I couldn’t understand how some of these were banned, it seems so simple. Profanity, sexual themes, handling topics that were controversial at the time… Others, like Steal This Book, were a little more bold and obvious in the banning, though I still question it.
This is actually my first time hearing about this week, and hearing that any of these books have actually been banned, but the week was founded in awareness against censorship in 1982 by librarian Judith Krug. More history and information about that here.
So the intent seems obvious: if you support bringing down the outrageous censorship and being told what you can and can’t read, promote and support the effort. The effort in question is a push for the First Amendment freedom, and to focus on the power of literature (as the wiki states).
The first thought that comes to mind is a quote by Robin Williams: “Live your life in a way that the Westboro Baptist Church will want to picket your funeral.” The same sentiment carries through to writing, though it doesn’t seem so difficult after looking at what these books have been banned for. Write in a way that your book could potentially get banned from a library. Choose to challenge instead of going quietly.
Seeing more of these books, it’s surprising, but should I really be surprised? Some profound, classic books that make a huge statement are on there, censored, to be kept away from people because of the content, because someone finds it offensive and wrong. They are loud books. They make you think. They challenge complacency. They help make you harder to control.
Though I probably shouldn’t go around assuming it’s all about control, but to a point, isn’t it?
If you do anything this week, read something that’s been banned, and truly consider it. On the other side, when you write, whether it’s a new chapter, or revising an older one, or a separate story altogether, think about what you’re challenging by writing it. Think about what goes into it. What do any of the characters do that push the envelope and force you to consider their actions and why they’re doing it?
And most of all, if you support this week and the awareness and freedom it promotes, only let it go by quietly if you’re too busy reading.
-The Novice Wordsmith
PS: Tell me what some of the most profound things you’ve had your characters do!