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Opinion

Banned Books Week celebrates controversial classics

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September 26, 2014

Most of us are going through this week just like any other week, but most of us are also unaware that it is a big one for the literary world.

This week is known as “Banned Books Week” in the U.S., in which people are encouraged to celebrate books that were once or are currently banned around the world. Books have been banned for many different reasons, mostly political and religious. They do not have to remain on the banned books list forever and can be removed.

Some of the books on the list are actually some of the greatest or most popular books of all time, such as the “Harry Potter” series or “The Catcher in the Rye.” Even though a few different groups may not approve of them, they are all books worth reading at some point in our lives.

The main goal of booksellers during “Banned Books Week” is to acknowledge and encourage the freedom to read and acknowledge the controversial authors of existing banned books in schools, libraries and bookstores. Just because something may be provocative, offensive or violent to one person, does not mean everyone will be affected in the same way.

People have many different interpretations as to what is right and wrong or what a particular symbol means. Everyone has different tastes in literature, and that is what “Banned Books Week” is meant to celebrate. Because of this, booksellers and advocates of the special week want to make sure that these “offensive” or “unorthodox” texts are widely available to consumers who which to read them.

“Banned Books Week” is fairly new here in the U.S. It was established in the last full week of September in 1982 by Judith Krug, an active First Amendment and library activist in the U.S.

She advocated for “Banned Books Week” in order to bring protection of the First Amendment (freedom of speech) and the power of literature together. She added that restricting certain books from schools, libraries and bookstores and limiting their availability presents a threat to the free world and the values it holds.

Today, the week is still strongly promoted by the ALA (American Library Association), and they sell a variety of merchandise to get the word out about banned books around the world.

Most books on the banned books list are not ones that are too surprising. These include popular books like the “The Da Vinci Code” and the Bible. Both the “Harry Potter” series and “The Da Vinci Code” were banned by the Catholic Church because they “promote witchcraft” or “reveal secrets of the Vatican.” Other books on the list are not quite as obvious, such as “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

“The Diary of Anne Frank” was banned because segments about Anne’s budding sexuality were deemed too inappropriate for readers (although, what were they expecting to see in a teenage girl’s diary?).

“All Quiet on the Western Front” focuses on soldiers during World War II, and it was banned by Nazi Germany for being “demoralizing” and “insulting.” Of course, many of these reasons go against freedom of speech, and only a few groups of people have taken offense to them, not everyone.

While this week may seem like any ordinary week, “Banned Books Week” is actually quite extraordinary. Not everyone enjoys reading, but many of these novels or works demonstrate excellent writing skills and messages about the world that readers need to learn about. It is a valuable tool if everyone reads at least one of these books in their lifetime, for it can result in a great impact.

You don’t have to be an English major or a Social Studies major to enjoy reading the plotlines in these books, you just have to be motivated to learn more about the world and the freedom to choose.

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.