Banned Books Week
September 30 kicked off the American Society of Journalists and Authors’ Banned Books Week. Started in 1982, the campaign was a reaction to schools and libraries pulling books off the shelves because of their objections to language and subject matter. The campaign debuted on the steps of the New York Public Library on April 1. Today, the effort has moved to the last week of September, but the focus is the same. More than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982, and the campaign encourages people to read and talk about books that have been banned.
Southerners should particularly take part, as many of our beloved books by Southern authors are on the list. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Native Son by Richard Wright. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. They’re all on the list of Banned and Challenged Classics. (Click on the link to find out where they were banned and why.)
Take a moment to think about your life without one of these books. What if you hadn’t been allowed to read To Kill A Mockingbird or Gone With the Wind? If you can’t imagine a world without these books in it, then get involved in Banned Books Week. You can participate in a Virtual Read-Out by posting a video of yourself reading an excerpt from your favorite banned book on YouTube. Bookstores and libraries around the country are also participating with special displays and events. Show your support by purchasing a banned book or attending a read-out event. Or just curl up at home with your favorite banned book.
Note: This post was updated from 2011’s Banned Books Week, hence the comments from last year.
Dan Kleinman of SafeLibraries / September 21, 2011
No book has been banned in the USA for about half a century. Fanny Hill got that honor a long time ago. http://www.317am.net/2011/08/banned-book-favorites-fanny-hill-reprise.html Challenged books in schools that are removed is different from banning. Even the creator of BBW said: “On rare occasion, we have situations where a piece of material is not what it appears to be on the surface and the material is totally inappropriate for a school library. In that case, yes, it is appropriate to remove materials. If it doesn’t fit your material selection policy, get it out of there.” http://tinyurl.com/Sowell
Mark Summers / September 22, 2011
I think what this piece reminds us is that the literature that is often most powerful and lasts, is the literature that challenges that status quo.
We tend to think that books that are banned are often profane or gratuitous in violence or sexuality. And in some cases the books above would have been seen so for their day.
But it more often seems these books in Southern Lit challenged the prevailing racial and class elements of Southern culture and that is what put them on banned lists.
I think what people forget about the South is that there has always been an element of writers and musicians that challenged the prevailing stereotypes that outside folks have of us. In fact both music and literature in the South shared from, borrowed from, and crossed racial lines and boundaries for decades before the official civil rights movement.
In any case just my two cents.