Did you know that this week is Banned Books Week? Yeah, neither did I. So, in honor of our first amendment right and in order to celebrate our freedom to read I’m diving into To Kill a Mockingbird, the audio book of course.
I know, some of you might be thinking, how is it that you haven’t already read this book? Well, truth be told, while everyone else was reading this book in school, I was in AP English reading every single work by Shakespeare. While Shakespeare is considered one of the greatest writers of all time, I will honestly say that at the age of 15, I just couldn’t rally behind the guy. Some of his work I did enjoy though, but much of it I found tedious and all of the characters started to melt together sometime between the 5th and 25th play we read. To this day there are only a couple that I can actually remember the general plot and names to the main characters. The rest, however, have been filed away in some dusty cabinet in my brain.
But, let’s get back to this business of banned books. Over the years, decades, centuries, books have been banned for a whole variety of reasons such as political controversy, violence, and profanity to name a few. Thankfully, in America we have the First Amendment and that helps to guarantee writers the freedom to write and us readers, the right to read freely. Not all countries feel the same about their citizenry though, and while we are blessed with this right, it does not go unchallenged. Every year books are hundreds, if not thousands, of books are challenged. For example, according to bannedbooksweek.org, there were 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014 alone. Many more go unreported though.
The people who founded the Banned Books Week campaign back in 1982, “encourage readers to celebrate banned books and their contribution to the literary canon, as well as intellectual freedom – the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if they are considered unorthodox or unpopular.” As soon as you tell people that they can’t do something, eat something, or read something, they then want to do, eat, or read just that. Mark Twain once wrote “It was not that Adam ate the apple for the apple’s sake, but because it was forbidden.” Ban something and it is our nature to have to challenge it.
So, why was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird banned? Well, according to the American Library Association it’s one of the most challenged classics of all time. It ranks in the top 10 even after it’s been in print for over 50 years. The challenges brought against the book are for racism, degradation, profane, and the promotion of white supremacy to name a few. Sounds like a good enough place to start as any to make up for the sins of a Sophomore AP English teacher and all those hours spent trying to figure out duke’s, lord’s, ladies, and all those sonnets. Oh, the never ending sonnets.
Who else is participating in Banned Book Week? Does anyone want to join me in reading to To Kill a Mockingbird? If so, you can find it at your local library, on Amazon.com, at whole host of books stores, or you could ask friends and family if they have a copy you could borrow.
Oh, and has anyone read Harper Lee’s newest book, Go Set a Watchman? What did you think? I’m thinking I’m going to have to read it just as soon as I finish To Kill a Mockingbird.