Oct 2, 2015

My Problem With Banned Books Week

Book banning offends me because it assumes readers are not intelligent enough to make their own decisions about reading materials.

The correct counterbalance for book banning does not involve exchanging one should for another. As in, "You should read banned books."

The correct counterbalance to book banning involves encouraging readers to develop their own evaluative skills.

It's okay to like and dislike books. Even when it feels like everyone else in the world loves a book, it's okay to dislike it. Likewise, it's okay to be madly in love with a book that others find disdainful.  We don't all have to agree about books.

Traditional press is problematic in the discussion of banned books because what they really want is continued respect and acceptance for the limited canon of books they have chosen to publish.  They are not asking readers to decide for themselves what is good or bad; they are asking readers to react against those who would challenge their canon.

When individuals buy into the idea that there is an acceptable canon, it's not surprising that they want input into deciding what is in it (required reading) and what is not (banned books).

The antidote to the problem of banned books is not reading a banned book and supporting the traditional canon. The antidote is tearing down the very idea of the canon. Be brave. Read widely. Make your own judgements.


Image is a Federal Art Project poster, created by Albert Bender and published in 1940.  Available through The Library of Congress.