I normally write one post a year about banned book week but this year? This year it feels critical in a way that it never has before.
During my son’s sophomore year in high school, he brought home a list of books and a permission slip. They each had to read a banned book and do a presentation on it. Parent’s had to OK whatever book their child chose.
We went over the list together. I pointed out some books I really enjoyed. He told me which ones he thought were interesting and chose one that I have on my shelves. Fahrenheit 451. Irony abounds. A book about censorship and thought control required a permission slip but there was something else I had noticed. Across the bottom, I wrote the teacher a note. “Funny that you require a permission slip now. Your curriculum abounds with banned books.”
Later, my son told me that when she read that she laughed. She just wanted parents to realize how commonplace banned books are. They aren’t “out there” and they aren’t “extreme.” They’re books about people who aren’t like the would-be banners. sometimes they are books that make you think. Some are pure entertainment.
Banning books is censorship. It is silencing a voice. It is an attempt to control minds. I remember when I was a teen. I’d get aggravated at someone and wish out loud they would “just be quiet.” Mom just shook her head. “That’s not how freedom of speech works. If you get it, everyone gets it.”
As polarized as our society has become, I can’t help but think, more people really should have listened to my mom. Celebrate freedom of speech. Take a trip to your library this week. Pick up a banned book.