The last week of September is the nationally recognized “banned books week,” during which the books that have been banned or challenged in schools, libraries, and other institutions are celebrated for the contributions they provide. It is precisely these kinds of books cutting edge, scary, thought-provoking, provocative, and ahead of their time that should be celebrated.
In an unofficial movement, many African American bookstores, authors, and bloggers have claimed the last week of October as “African-American banned books week,” a time to celebrate banned books by African-American authors and other authors of color.
Among those most celebrated titles are:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker; The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley ; Beloved by Toni Morrison; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; Native Son by Richard Wright; Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin; The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and many, many others.
At AbyD, we happily celebrate banned books by authors of all colors and stripes. We are fans of the unknown and untested, of wild creativity and unfettered thought.
Why Are Books Banned?
Books are banned or challenged by schools, libraries, learning institutions, or public groups. Even government censorship boards have banned books. The reasons are usually related to some kind of outrage over the book’s contents that can include: violence, sex, racism, drug/alcohol use, blasphemy, religion, politics, and even witchcraft.
Did you know that groups wanted to ban the Harry Potter book series because they claimed it encouraged witchcraft?!
The Diary of Anne Frank was also brought before a board in Alabama for rejection simply because it was “a real downer.” Imagine!
A council in London banned the Beatrix Potter classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit from London schools because it portrayed “only middle-class rabbits!”
It’s easy to laugh at some of these claims in retrospect, but they were quite real, and it’s scary to think that we might have lost some of these great, classic books.
Why We Should Celebrate
We should celebrate banned books so that we can recognize that we made mistakes and rectified them. That we allowed knowledge to rule over fear, beauty over prejudice. We should celebrate because we recognized our mistakes and grew as a society and a culture. We should celebrate because, as a nation, we are still young and willing to learn from our mistakes.
Because these books were banned at one time, there is a chance that, had we not seen the error of our ways, these titles might have been lost forever. We need to rejoice in the fact that that didn’t happen. That we still have these tomes and titles to read, enjoy and consider.
After all, what would the world be without The Color Purple or I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Not a world I’d like to know.