on censorship

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Censorship is definitely one of my hottest-button issues.  It’s in my Top 5 Things I Get Legitimately Angry About.  I typically run screaming from political discussions if I have a choice (people are entitled to their opinions, of course, and I have my own, but I prefer not to get in arguments with people I otherwise respect) but I can’t really resist an opportunity to soapbox about censorship.

I’ve been lucky.  I haven’t actually dealt with a lot of it firsthand.  At my high school, we didn’t really deal with “banned books,” and when a kid or their family specifically objected to a text, they would be given an alternate assignment and no fuss would be made about it.

After reading the posted writings, I found the ALA’s list of the Top 10 most banned books of 2011.  I’ve read exactly two of them; most of them I haven’t even heard of.  The reasons cited for banning The Hunger Games, a young adult postapocalypse adventure novel, are these: “Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence.”  Okay, there’s violence, yes.  It’s a book about kids being forced to kill each other for entertainment purposes.  I don’t actually recall too much offensive language, though.  Maybe the occasional hell or damn or something, but it was a young adult novel.  I really do want to know what they’re referring to as “occult/satanic” and “anti-family,” though.  I’m pretty sure the premise of the entire first book is that the protagonist volunteers to take her sister’s place in the Hunger Games out of love because they are family.  And “insensitivity”?  Isn’t every book about insensitivity?

Reading the reasons people choose to ban books just makes me want to shake them.  Verbally.  In the USA Today article, “Krug said libraries strive for diversity, not balance. If someone doesn’t like what’s on the shelf, they don’t have to read it, she said.”  Exactly.  I’m personally not going to object to someone reading anything based on the content (I might object based on whether it is or is not actually well-written, but that’s a matter of taste, and I would never stop someone from it) but if someone thinks that Harry Potter worships the devil or Huckleberry Finn is just too racially insensitive (well, it’s about racism, but) I suppose that’s their prerogative.

It’s important for libraries and schools to be able to provide everything they can to people.  If a person is personally offended by the material, they don’t have to check it out, but they shouldn’t have the ability to keep others from it.  And a librarian has a responsibility to fight for this right to information with all their power.

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