Don’t read this blog

Maddening, isn’t it? Being told what you’re not allowed to read?  Learning that someone thinks they have the right to decide what ideas you should have access to.

Every year throughout North America, supposedly well-meaning pillars of the community (read self-righteous, authoritarian and generally far right-wingers) request that schools and libraries ban certain books and make them unavailable. Sometimes the schools and libraries fight and win—and sometimes they don’t. The towns and cities that have to live under this kind of intellectual fascism are all the poorer for it. It’s the suppression of ideas—censorship—plain and simple.

Three of the top ten challenged or banned books in 2010 were Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. How anyone could consider Ms. Ehrenreich’s look at the hardships suffered by working class American a danger to the public beats me. But then again, I’m not afraid of ideas that don’t fit within my personal frame of reference.

In order to call attention to this situation, Banned Books Week was established by the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association and is held annually in late September. This year’s celebration runs from September 24 to October 1, with a mission to “ensure access for all.”

As both a reader and a writer (who has friends whose books have been banned), I think Banned Book Week is incredibly important. It’s a reminder that the freedom to read what we choose is essential to both our civil and human rights. It’s a stand against the kind of intellectual totalitarianism that breeds conformity and complacency.   It’s about ensuring that the thought police never go unchallenged.

So while I take a mid-week hiatus to make some deadlines—and return with another episode of Her Joyful Noise on the weekend—why don’t you break some rules. Be a rebel. Lead a revolt. Read a book someone thinks you shouldn’t.

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