This last week of September is Banned Books Week, an annual event in which libraries, bookstores, and news media celebrate freedom to read. According to the American Library Association:
Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
I blogged previously about the most-challenged books of 2010. This week, banned or challenged authors speak out in the Los Angeles Review of Books Blog. Today’s essay is by children’s book author Susan Patron. She asks authors to consider their own possible contribution to banning, by self-censorship. She writes:
Do we writers confuse our job with that of teachers, religious leaders, parents? Their job is to set examples, establish limits and rules, teach good manners, pass along moral values, exercise sound judgment, and model appropriate behavior for children to imitate. The job of writers and other artists is to prod and poke, to provoke questions, to challenge assumptions, to lift that corner of the rug and give readers a look at what’s been swept underneath. Our job is to respect readers of any age, which means to be honest with them.
This year’s Banned Books Week features a Virtual Read-Out, in which anyone can upload or watch 2-minute videos of readers of all ages reading from banned or challenged books on a dedicated Youtube channel. The message is irrefutable: Read what you want, all you can, and write what you need to write.