Banned Book Week Comes To A Close But Our Minds Didn't

photo-1 copy 2As Banned Book Week came to a close on Saturday, I’d like to express my gratitude to all the librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, authors, and readers who came together to support the free exchange of ideas. The freedom to read is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of open and lively minds and the desire to censor or ban books no doubt always springs from the compulsion to control minds and keep them closed off from whatever ideas are currently a threat to frightened blowhards.

But as the official celebration ends, I’d like to urge everyone to keep up the good fight against any and all threats to free and open access to information. This fight requires much more than a week, a year, or even several decades; it’s a lifelong battle and one of the worthiest because it seeks to protect the integrity of thought and its unending tendency to reflect, reconsider, and revise itself, even when it explores unpopular territory and opposes the status quo. It takes an enormous amount of effort to keep the the space clear in which alternative forms of thinking and being come to be articulated. The legislators of the real have a huge stake in controlling that space by filling it only with books about “the way things are.” It’s how they use their worldview to dominate and control others behind the guise of protecting them.

And just as much as I encourage us all to keep up the good fight against censorship (which, think about it, is actually the essence of terrorism), I urge young people to not only read, read, and read some more, but especially to seek out and read every challenged or banned book they can get their curious little hands on. All year long. Find out what people are fussing about, find the books, read them, and ask yourself why some people don’t want you to read them. Because when books make people mad, when books drive people to burn them, then it’s a given that they’re about something vital and important and world changing.

Ideas can change the world. You can start a book and end a book a completely different person. There is no greater pleasure that reading can offer. But the books that change things are the books that challenge things, and books that challenge things are the books that people want to ban. So they unwittingly create a reading list for young radicals who want to get sparked and make a difference.

Go ask your school librarian if they have John Green on the shelves. If they do, read it all. If they don’t, ask them why. When they tell you why, tell them that John Green is one of the best YA authors alive and that a school library that lacks John Green is a travesty against knowledge and good sense. Tell them to order 5 copies of Looking for Alaska because you want books that matter to young people in a way that carries depth and weight. Make some noise. Write letters to the principal and the newspaper about the evils of censorship and Free Access to Libraries for Minors. Get involved.

Look for And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. If your library doesn’t carry the book, ask why. When they tell you that the book is inappropriate because it’s about 2 male penguins raising a baby penguin and it supports a homosexual agenda, ask what would’ve happened to the penguin egg if it wasn’t given to Roy and Silo. Ask why your librarian and the people who challenge the book would rather have the baby die than be raised by 2 male penguins. Point out that aborting babies seems to not cohere with the typical system of values that opposes gay marriage. Write letters to the principal and the newspaper about the evils of censorship and Free Access to Libraries for Minors. Get involved.

Again, as Banned Book Week came to a close yesterday, let’s remember with vigilance that our minds did not. Every day is the perfect day to read something dangerous.


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