Originally published September 2017
It’s Banned Books Week!
The time of year which all free thinkers can celebrate the diversity of opinion put to paper, the differences that make the world we live in worth exploring, the variety that makes the human collective the incredible species it is.
Of course, I think books should be celebrated every day. But this week is an especially important one, because it shines a light on the books that often challenge readers to think critically about certain subject matter. To open their mind to a line of thought that might be in direct opposition with their own belief system. To shed light on subjects that, if talked about at all, often are discussed in the dark, in whispers, behind closed doors.
Subjects like sexuality. Racism. Religion. Politics.
I can say this, because he pretty much admitted it to the press during his campaign.
He has no time to read, he said: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”
Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
To be fair, I haven’t read anything by the Donald. Not interested. But, the reason Banned Books Week exists is to celebrate and protect the right to choose and have access to those books, in case one day I fall down and hit my head and think “The Art of the Deal” would make a great read.
According to the American Library Association, nearly half of the reported challenges in 2016 occurred at public libraries. Another 30 percent took place in school libraries. And nine of the 10 books challenged in 2016 were so because of a sexual theme or sexual content. One could suppose then, there are a lot of parents concerned about their kids reading books like George, I Am Jazz, or Two Boys Kissing. So, to parents out there: I respect your right to educate your children about sexuality. Only you know your kids and have a grasp on what concepts they’ll be able to process and understand so that they can form their own opinion.
But that right extends to your kids alone. Not everyone else’s children.
Books like these, both fiction and nonfiction, are a source of knowledge and solace for kids in every community that are trying to understand themselves and what may or may not make them different. And that different DOES NOT mean bad. Or damaged. Or sinful. Like the books that came before them — Anne Frank’s diary, the Harry Potter series, the Holy Bible, To Kill a Mockingbird, Nickel and Dimed, The Color Purple, Of Mice and Men — these books provide a door into worlds where alternative viewpoints are expressed and debated, which then can at least be understood if not then embraced.
Just because a book sits on a shelf at the library doesn’t mean it has to sit on yours. Or that you have to read it. But you might just learn something if you do.
Don’t be a Donald. Read a book. And this week, make it a banned one.