September 25 marked the start of the annual Banned Books Week, an event sponsored by the American Library Association and a host of others to celebrate our national right to freedom of speech. It seeks to bring awareness to issues of censorship, intellectual freedom, and access of information. Each year, groups across the country attempt to create controversy by banning books–mostly books meant for children and young adults– because they feel the books are inappropriate or set a bad example. The reasoning is varied and often illogical, but leads to a dangerous assault on our rights as American citizens to choose what we want to read, say, and believe.
Thanks to the effort of librarians, students, teachers, and other reading activists, many of today’s attempts to ban books are largely unsuccessful. However, bringing awareness to these issues is essential, as it inspires us to remember how fortunate we are to have intellectual freedom and responsibility.
Fordham is highlighting several titles on their list which coincide with the mission of Banned Books Week to promote literacy and freedom of speech.
Around the Book: Systems and Literacy is scholar Henry Sussman’s examination of the current state of the printed book. He defends its relevance and importance of books even in the shifting world of Twitter, eReaders, and audiobooks. Sussman delves into history, citing Kafka, Derrida, Blanchot, and others as evidence of the book’s vitality. According to Sussman, the book is still very much the cultural medium–the only obstacle hindering its progress is the blockade to readers’ full expression of literary freedom.(Forthcoming in November 2010).
The Dark Side of Literacy: Literature and Learning Not to Read seeks to dispel the dangerous political association with reading and experience. Rather than promulgate this relationship, Benjamin Bennett refutes it, saying that our literary classics were written with the aim to dispel this notion of “reading” and “the reader.” It’s a radical reassessment of reading and literacy.
The Author-Cat: Clemens’s Life in Fiction takes a look at Mark Twain’s life through his fiction. Author Forrest Robinson insists that though Twain left behind a hefty autobiography, it’s the details he provided in his fiction that tell the real story of his life. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remains a controversial book to this day, remaining on frequently challenged and banned books lists.
Go pick up a challenged book and celebrate your right to read it!