It's Banned Book Week here. Have you heard of that? I’ve seen some press coming out of Australia recently about books with sensitive subject matter, but I must confess I had never heard of Banned Book Week until I stumbled across it by accident last week. So, this is what I know.
It started back in 1982 as an initiative from the American Library Association (ALA) in response to repeated requests to ban certain books from schools and public libraries. Outraged by the surge in requests that year, the ALA began promoting - what they call - freedom of access - to raise awareness of attempts to censor the books available to a broader population. Each year during Banned Book Week, the ALA releases a list of the "Top 10 Most Challenged Books" of the previous year. These are books that have been challenged for removal from shelves, or in some cases even banned from schools or public libraries for 'inappropriate' content. It's an interesting list; especially for an Australian whose sensitives are … let’s just say, not that sensitive!
After reading through the list my kids and I went hunting. We found LOTS of banned or challenged books on our open bookshelves. Our stack was not unsubstantial. In order to photograph them all, I ended up condensing the stash by first books in the series only and and these are just the titles we had immediate access to. I have more (like 13 Reasons Why) in the garage in unpacked boxes. Reviewing this list from the perspective of my children was also highly amusing! They were outraged at times, “How can Dave Pikey be on that list? How?” or “Religious Reasons - really. What about all the murder, sexual assault, kidnap?” - she was referring to The Lovely Bones. But it got me thinking - what would the sensitive folks make of these little babies?
My Grandfather was a Communist. Well, technically he was part of a Union in the 1950s which supported some communist ideology. I don’t know much about it and I never asked. After he died in the early 1980s, my Mum gave me one of his possessions - a book and it’s a communist cracker! Called “Peekskill USA”, it tells a rather disturbing story of a massacre at a music concert in Peekskill on August 27th, 1949. The book was censored here in the US and the foreward is written in Russian. Hmm, best keep that one hidden I think. I’m tempted to share some passages with you here, but I’m a bit scared of getting in trouble so let’s keep it a secret. I have, however, shared a couple of the inside pages but ssshhh, ok. Promise!
BUT - it’s not the US that faces censorship of ideology. Here’s another book off my shelf that’s extraordinarily cringe-worthy fiction if you’re unlike me. Written by Australian Author and Journalist Andrew Masterson, The Last Days; the Apocalypse of Joe Panther tells a brilliant story about a man who believes himself to be the living messiah. He now works as a Private Detective in Melbourne and is asked to investigate a gruesome murder in an inner city Church. Why Jesus would live in Melbourne instead of, say … New York is something that only Andrew could answer but I’m getting off point. It’s gritty and confronting as our protagonist is NOT a nice man, but it’s a great read in a thought provoking context of what Jesus might feel had he been alive to witness humanity over the last 3 centuries. Again, this is not a book I’m willing to share passages with online to the masses. But you’re not the masses are you?
So now I need to ask - would you like to see either of these books in your local public library or does the idea of such a thing horrify you? Let me know… I’m curious!