Banned Books Week: September 22-28
In honor of Banned Books Week, Barbara Jones, director of the ALA (American Library Association) Office for Intellectual Freedom, offers a history lesson on book censorship over at Huffington Post. She recalls that, when she was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s, a course called “African-American Literature” was a new offering. She also recalls:
My high school had a large Mexican-American student body, yet there were no books or history lessons about their experience. Indeed, they were “invisible” to many of us.
Jones’s high school experience was more diverse than mine. In my all-white graduating class, the only question of diversity was whether one was Protestant or Catholic. I had to wait until I got to college to meet any people at all different from me.
And so I share Jones’s baby boomer perspective:
I am deeply concerned about the current deluge of removals of classic books from the American literary canon. I thought that, as a society, we had reached a consensus that the literary canon should represent diverse segments of U.S. society. Multicultural literary works are not being included because of some need for “political correctness.” They are included because they are excellent and have been acknowledged as such by countless awards for literary merit. Though books that deal with controversial topics may make some readers uncomfortable, such literature offers a vehicle for true learning and understanding.
It’s time for all of us who believe in the power of books to enrich our knowledge and expand our perspective to stand up for this belief and fight censorship in our communities.