Banned Books Week (September 27 – October 3, 2020) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It is a week to consider the impact of censorship and what it means to hold intellectual freedoms.
Often the word ‘banned’ brings up images of Europe during the early to mid-1900s with Nazi book burnings and anti-Semitic actions that shut down the arts with few exceptions.
Looking to the United States, we don’t have to look far to see censorship on our own doorsteps.
In the 1980s, the American Library Association started Banned Books Week as a response to challenges and protests around a Supreme Court case that ruled in favor of libraries who were fighting to keep books on their shelves.
This is a week of awareness. Check out the lists compiled of frequently banned or challenged books. Challenged books, are books that are targeted for removal but have not officially been banned.
You’ll see examples like George Orwell’s 1984, banned and challenged even in recent history for its sexual content, and pro-communist sentiments.
Or Black authors including Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, who continue to be challenged citing the controversial nature of exposing and documenting the Black experience.
Censors prejudge materials for the entire community, with a desire to quiet voices that are too different, or too painful to hear.
Information is powerful. The discussion of who is heard and who gets to decide should be part of our ongoing conversation, especially now when inclusion, inequity, race, and respect are topics that must be heard.
The American Library Association maintains an Intellectual Freedom blog if you are interested in following some of these conversations at a national level. https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/