Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Books Week: Design Edition

To Kill a Mockingbird by The Sea Or You
Some of these pieces of artwork specifically depict the banned books mentioned...

The Catcher in the Rye by Racheal Anilyse
Others aren't meant to be linked, but I found myself linking them design/tone/theme-wise...

for example, the below makes me think of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak
Eliot by Hanna Viktorsson
And this one below reminds me of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower:
Autumn Boy by Nan Lawson

This one reminds me of Bridge to Terabithia

Enchanted Forest by Jenny DiGuglielmo

Climbing towards the heavens - From James and the Giant Peach - By Roland Dahl by Karen Watson

Banned Books Week is all about appreciating the freedom to read.  A library having a book you disapprove of doesn't mean the library is actively pushing the book on you, or your child.  Librarians are staunch upholders of the right to read, and that includes refusing to prevent access to anyone, and that includes barring access because of age or belief or any number of other things.  

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be "protected" against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression.

People may complain that they don't want "those" books in "their" library -- but I think it's important to note that while libraries may be funded by the people, they are for all the people too.  Not just people who voice their dislike, but the people who don't.  One person may object to Mommy, Mama, and Me or Annie on My Mind, but another person who has the equal right to the library and its collections may have requested it (they may not even be part of the minority depicted in the book!  A hypothetical straight woman who has a lesbian sister may want Mommy, Mama, and Me to read to her daughter who's been asking about her cousin's moms.)  Everyone deserves to be able to access the books they need without the library deciding who should be "protected" from certain items and ideas and realities, and what those items are. Speak for one person might be a gasp of air. The Captain Underpants Collection, well, funny and harmless.  The point is that librarians aren't babysitters for children or adults.

Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.

In closing...I am always deeply saddened when I learn that some books I read and read and re-read as a child and teenager are constantly banned, and I am simultaneously thankful that I was never told explicitly not to read whatever books I picked up in the library.  A person doesn't have to identify with a character's exact situation for the book to make a powerful impact.  I have not experienced rape, but as a teen, Speak gave me a sense of anger over anyone being treated that way, of the society that tells victims to be quiet, and I haven't stopped being angry.  The book is a catalyst for young people, and I find it haunting and telling that a book specifically about a girl speaking up and finding herself and her voice after rape is a book that is again and again silenced.

Speak against silence.  Speak against book banning.

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