This week, September 27-October 4, marks the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, which has celebrated “the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” since 1982. Books are often, but not always, challenged for such “valid” reasons as protecting children from inappropriate material. But this doesn’t mean that banning books, for whatever reason, is ever a good idea and the ALA maintains the completely rational belief that child supervision is a parent’s and not a librarian’s duty. Banned Books Week isn’t so much about promoting your favorite challenged author or book as it is about celebrating your least favorite challenged author’s right to write. This means that everyone (read everyone) is allowed to voice their opinions whether you, or I, like it or not. If the oft-studied Noam Chomsky ever had an appropriate quote, it was “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. So, in honor of Banned Books Week, BTSB proudly presents one person’s freedom of expression.Check out the ALA’s Banned Books Week website for more information on the Freedom to Read.
I was overjoyed to see that scandalous book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books of 2007 because of its racism. And so it comes as no surprise to me in these free times that a book about slavery is on the to-be-banned rap sheet. In fact, I am surprised that it has not already been whipped off the shelves. The people back then may have said “nigger”, but we surely know better today; we have other words.
I may not know this Mark Twain character, but I do know that his name is a pseudonym. What’s he hiding, I wonder? Apparently he was quite the controversial celebrity in his time and he wasn’t afraid to tell his and only his side of the story. Add bigotry to that and what do you have? Bill O’Reilly behind a mustache. So I’m torn on Twain.
I have been fortunate enough to not have read Huck Finn and I don’t plan to. I got all the information from my Mexican gardener, Flavio. I’m not one to trust immigrants (their bilingualism makes the majority of Americans look stupid) but he’s always been able to mow my lawn for less money than anyone else and if that’s not true American pride at its purest, I don’t know what is. Flavio says that the book is about gaining freedom. And yet there are no terrorists in it anywhere. Unbelievable. Flavio also said that the main character is a young white boy who shares. Despicable. And what may be worst of all, I’m told the book’s language is so thick that even university professors can not understand it. Deplorable. Perhaps Flavio should become an English teacher.
Now, I’ve heard many good ideas proposed to battle the spread of this trashy book, the best of them being that we should make it part of the reading list for our blossoming students. Indeed, I myself can not think of a better way to keep kids from wanting to read a certain book than by requiring them to read it. But this step is dangerous. Ashamed as I am to say it, I enjoyed the last book I read in school, James and the Giant Peach, another prejudiced tale of plebeian escape. And mine is only one example of a common affliction affecting those who read. First, people start to read, then they start to think, and before we know it, our dear hillbilly hunters of Alaska, instead of their governor, will be taking books out of the libraries. Friends, I have seen it happen before.
So I propose a much simpler and more effective plan.
I say we give this book a taste of its own medicine by sending each and every copy up the river along with a black-covered book. Bibles usually have black covers, don’t they?