The Richland Public Library has announced its annual Banned Books Week. The literary celebration will take place from Sunday, September 27th to Saturday, October 3rd, 2020. What is a banned books week, I hear you asking? To understand the unique celebration, we must look at the history of the books in question. According to the American Library Association (ALA), more than 300 books have been “challenged” in the United States. A book being challenged means that people throughout the country — at one point or another — have called for it to be removed from libraries, schools, universities, or all three.

The Problem with Censorship

Great works of literature have frequently been viewed as “pushing the boundaries.” Often, these titles cover sensitive subject matter and contain vulgar language, explicit content, or some combination of materials deemed uncouth by would-be censors. The glaring problem with banning books is that it silences the voices of authors and artists alike. Furthermore, it sets a poor standard for society as a whole. It shows that we are not tolerant of ideas that stray even slightly from the “norm.” The Richland Public Library has compiled a list of the top 10 “challenged” books of 2019, which include several extremely popular entries, including Margaret Atwood’s timeless masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Snowball Effect

Another critical problem with censorship is its tendency (or perhaps nature) to snowball out of control. It starts with novels that are viewed as questionable, and before too long, you’ve banned The Cat in the Hat (an actual entry on the expanded list of “challenged” books from 2019). We must ask ourselves if the world we want for our children is barren of literature and art. Moreover, must written works have to fit our preferences and specifications to be considered legitimate? As the manager of the Richland Public Library Leslie Campbell Hime put it, “The majority of people really value freedom, they value the diversity that comes from the different viewpoints in these different novels.”

Epilogue

As autumn breezes by and we make our way into winter, it’s time to do your patriotic American duty. Snuggle up with one of these challenged books, a blanket, and a cup of coffee. However, If you don’t own any of the books on the list, support our local libraries. Skip the Amazon Prime delivery and shop for novels locally. You can speak with the friendly staff, receive recommendations, and maybe meet a like-minded bookworm who’s celebrating Banned Book Week as well. Practice your freedom by reading whatever it is that interests you!   

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