Welcome to September – my favorite month of the year!
Not only is this month home to my birthday, it’s the kick off for fall, the holiday season, and a fantastic time to focus on reading and books. September 27th is the start of this year’s Banned Books Week, an event I’m particularly passionate about.
Banned Books Week was created by the American Library Association to draw attention to (and hopefully prevent) literary censorship. Each year, the event encourages you to read books that have been challenged or banned and includes a list of the previous year’s most challenged books. The purpose is to ensure the future of free exchange of ideas, and remind us that censorship can be dangerous.
I fully support your right to read whatever you choose. Reading opens new worlds to you, boosts your creativity, and makes you a more understanding person. There may be books out there that I don’t have any interest in reading because of the content, but that certainly doesn’t mean I should be able to keep others from reading them. Parents should put age-appropriate limits on what their kids read (based on research of the books in question), but they should never have the ability to keep others’ kids from reading whatever they and their families choose.
The challenges to books on the ALA’s list each year include complaints that the books are “anti-family,” not age-appropriate, “satanic/include witchcraft,” and “anti-authority.” Again, if someone doesn’t want to read books of this nature, that’s fine – but it should scare you that people out there want to make sure you can’t read them either. Typically, the challenges seek to remove the books from libraries or schools. Even worse, this list frequently includes books you probably consider classics; the Harry Potter series, Catcher in the Rye, Grapes of Wrath, and To Kill a Mockingbird have all made the list previously.
I challenge you to read a banned book or two this month. Whether it’s Harry Potter, 50 Shades of Grey, or the Anarchist Cookbook (actually a book I plan to read when I’m able to find it), read away! Encourage the youth you know to read and read frequently. Stand up against book challenges in your community, and support your local library. Books represent the voices of all of us, even those we disagree with. My reading list this month includes a few books on the ALA’s list, as well as some new releases (and maybe this will at long last be the month I get to read Girl on a Train!)
Reading List | September 2015
- Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi || This is a graphic novel focused on the author’s cchildhood in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution. It’s been called one of the best fiction books of the recent decade. A few months ago, a college student and her parents attempted to have this novel and three others banned from campus, after learning she’d have to read them in a class. She specifically mentioned wanting to keep others from “reading this garbage.” Let that sink in – a 20-year-old supposed adult wanted to keep other COLLEGE students from reading this. Thankfully, she didn’t achieve her goal, and I’ll be reading this “garbage” this month.
- Saint Mazie, by Jamie Attenberg || Published in June, this novel follows a spunky proprietress living in Depression era New York City. She loves a good time, but comes from a poverty-ridden childhood. Much of the story focuses on her attempts to help those suffering from the Depression around her, and who she really is.
- Not on Fire, but Burning, || by Greg Hrbek This book comes out near the end of the month, and I am excited to read this new take on a post-apocalyptic America. Following a nuclear attack on America, Muslims have been rounded up and forced to live on Native American reservations, and tensions are very high. The main character, a young boy, thinks often of the sister he lost in the attack – but his parents pretend like she never existed.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie || I have wanted to read this for quite awhile, and this month presented the perfect opportunity. It is extremely popular, and has won the National Book Award. The novel tells the story of Junior, a Native American boy attending an all-white high school. It was the most challenged book of 2014.
I would love to hear what banned books you’re reading, or what your favorites are. Happy reading!