Monday, September 27, 2010

Be Radical -- Read A Book

It is National Banned Books Week again, brought to you courtesy of those wonderful people at the American Library Association.

I wrote about Banned Books Week last year, and other than noting that Banned Books Week 2010 runs from September 27 through October 2 and is now in its 28th year, everything I said last year goes for this year as well, which is why my original post is set out below.

We live in increasingly polarized times as economic, racial, religious, political, and other differences push us farther and farther apart. Books and the free and uncensored access to them are ways to bridge those gaps.

There is a wonderful scene in the movie "Field of Dreams" in which Annie Kinsella speaks out against banning books. She rouses the other locals in attendance to take a stand on their beliefs. After asking who supported banning books and getting no response, she then asks:

Now, who's for the Bill of Rights? Who thinks freedom is a pretty darn good thing? Come on! Let’s see those hands! Who thinks we have to stand up to the kind of censorship they had under Stalin? [Hands go up all over the auditorium.] All right! There you go! America, I love you. I’m proud of you!

I'm with Annie.

Last Year's Post About Banned Books Week

September 26 through October 3 is Banned Books Week, now in its 27th official year. Created by the American Library Association, it is a yearly reminder to us all that the right to read what you want when you want is a precious one and not to be taken for granted.

Books are removed - or attempted to be removed - from libraries and schools around this country on a regular basis. Those calling for censorship cross the political spectrum from right to left, so despite your political convictions, you can't blame it on the other side.

When I look at my bookshelves or think about my sons' bookshelves, I see a plethora of books that have come under fire: The Wizard of Oz. Slaughterhouse Five. The Grapes of Wrath. The Diary of Ann Frank. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Bible.

So many books, so little time.

Ray Bradbury more than once wrote short stories about a future where books were taboo. In his novel Fahrenheit 451, he imagines an America in which books are torched pursuant to the law: The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Bradbury's works pop up on banned books lists from time to time. I suspect that makes him glad he wrote them.

Next week, celebrate your right to read freely during Banned Books Week. Be a radical. Read a banned book. Read 10 banned books. Reread Fahrenheit 451 while you are at it.

And then go out and read some more. Not just this week but every week. Not just now but always.

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