This week (Sat., Sept. 25 through Fri., Oct. 2) is ALA Banned Books Week. Here's what the American Library Association has to say about BBW:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
Did you know that this year a public school in Virginia banned Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl? Or that a school district in California banned the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary? Also on the chopping block: Nickeled and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie; The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.
You know that old joke, "Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company"? If reading these books is wrong, I'm not sure I want to be right.
In most of the instances the ALA cites in this year's Banned and Challenged list, the heart of the controversy rests on whether middle and high school students should be exposed to these materials. As a writer and librarian, it kills me to see books being taken out of the hands of teenagers, especially books that might touch someone in a difficult situation and let them know they're not alone. People, teenagers included, need books like these to help them understand their own lives and the human experience. Part of why I write now -- part of why I'm alive to write now -- is that books like these threw me a lifeline in my adolescence. They gave me an escape from reality when I needed it and the knowledge that I wasn't alone in what I was going through. Now when I write, one of the things that drives me is the desire to show someone else you aren't alone; I know what this is like.
Today a co-worker sent me a link to a guest blog post on Shelf Awareness by frequently-challenged Y.A. author Lauren Myracle. She gives one of the most balanced and moving pleas for allowing uncensored access to books I've read all week. I want to encourage everyone who visits this little blog to read it here and go check out a banned book from your local library.