These days, most banned books in the U.S. are those removed from school and public libraries when Person A or Person B doesn't like a book. Those who challenge books are among our weakest links. They believe, I think, that their children are so weak and/or that their parenting skills are so ineffectual that rather than suggesting that BRAVE NEW WORLD (for example) is better left unread for now, they prefer to deprive all of the students in the school of the right to read that book.
What arrogance. Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones doesn't want their kids to read, say, the latest Ellen Hopkins young adult novel, so they challenge it. If they succeed, they're also saying they don't want your kids to read "Crank" or "Perfect" either. You had no say in the matter. The gutless people on the school board voted to cave in to the wishes of one person.
Banned Books Week reminds us that Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jones are still out there and that they don't care about you or your family.
Outside the U. S.
Worse yet, of course, is the censorship in other countries. Amnesty International (AI) reminds us during Banned Books Week that the threats to free expression include prison and sometimes death.
Author Nurmemet Yasin, for example, is in prison in China for writing an allegory that officials thought challenged their rule. Isa Saharkhiz, a journalist, is in prison in Iran for criticizing the Ayatollah. And across the border in Mexico, journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro is living with death threats because her work has exposed prostitution and the trafficking of women .
I marvel at the risks that writers and others are willing to take in such countries as Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. If you're not a member of AI, the International Campaign for Tibet or a similar organization, you won't hear about most of the torture, imprisonment and deathl. It doesn't make the news. Our media either doesn't care or we don't read deep enough to find the stories.
When it comes to the freedom expression and the right to read, we have more work to do to get ride of the dark ages.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of "Sarabande," a new contemporary fantasy published by Vanilla Heart in August 2011 in trade paperback and e-book editions.