In my free time this summer, in between camping excursions, day trips, dropping my kids off at camps and tending my garden, I immersed myself in some controversial fiction. I wanted to experience the imaginary characters and settings and plots that throughout history have been considered dangerous enough to be legally or effectively banned or challenged, in certain countries at certain times.
Even the U.S.A. has a sketchy history with book banning, starting with the novel “Moll Flanders,” written by Daniel Defoe in England in 1722 and banned from mailing via U.S. Postal Service over a hundred years later due to “obscene,” “filthy,” or “inappropriate” content. Today, America’s freedom of speech and the “right to read” is often taken for granted but is in fact at the very heart of who we are and what we value as a society, even, and especially, in a political climate when individual values seem to constantly clash. In the crossfire of this clash is the American Library Association, which celebrates our right to read by sponsoring Banned Books Week each September. Launched in the 1980s, and taking place this year on September 23-29, the initiative unites libraries, publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers to celebrate and protect the right to express and pursue ideas of all kinds.
More about Banned Books Week, and how to become involved:
One positive way to become involved in the freedom to read is by enhancing your local library’s collection. Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries (FVRL) boasts a staggering variety of reading and media materials, but if they don’t have the book you need, FVRL welcomes purchase requests from library card holders. After logging in to fvrl.org, go here to fill out a request form. My 12-year-old daughter, Chloe, recently submitted a library purchase request that was approved! She was notified when the book was available, and she was delighted to be the first to check out the brand new book by one of her favorite authors. Many tweens and teens will now be able to enjoy that book as much as she did.
Vintage Books in Vancouver and Powell’s Books in Portland will both be promoting Banned Books Week the last week in September. Check their websites for information about events and promotions, and visit your local independent book store!