This week is Banned Book Week (through Oct. 2, which just happens to be my birthday) and it’s a cause very close to my heart. Not only am I a writer, but when I was growing up there were always books around. I was always encouraged to read. My grandma worked in a library and my mother often took me to the library in our town.
I don’t know where I’d be now if it weren’t for the adventures I had in banned books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or Charlotte’s Web. Or, later as an adult, The Sound and the Fury, The Sun Also Rises, or two of my all-time favorites The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird.
There are so many books that opened my mind and heart; that took me to other worlds or challenged the way I thought. And that’s the problem, right? These books can challenge you. But I would argue that like an unexamined life, the literary world is not worth much to you or society if it doesn’t challenge you. If it doesn’t stir your soul; make you ask questions; or scratch your head — what’s it worth?
But more important than anyone’s taste in literature or art is how important our First Amendment rights are. Banned books are living proof that if you are not careful, the slippery slope of censorship will move right in. I don’t like all the books that are on the banned book lists. But I will defend that they should exist; that our society is stronger when we are brave enough to allow free speech; and that rights are not a matter of taste.
If you want to make your life as safe as possible and never be challenged, that’s your choice. Dont’ read those books. Keep Dr. Seuss out of your house and away from your kids. That’s your choice and your right. But when it comes to banning books, get the hell off my property. And by property, I mean my rights.
And if you want to hang out with others who think like me, check out the Uncensored Voices: Celebrating Literary Freedom event hosted by Jon Ralston tomorrow (Thurs) at 7 p.m. at the Clark County Library.