Sunday, September 28, 2008

I like them books

Banned Books Week
Sept. 27-Oct. 4, 2008

Bill of Rights
Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. And the American Library Association’s celebration couldn’t have come at a more opportune time than this the week of the vice presidential debate in St. Louis.

Gwen Ifill, the PBS correspondent and debate moderator, will certainly have a timely story and question to ask of Gov. Sarah Palin if she questions the VP candidate about her seemingly innocuous request to a Wasilla librarian about “How to go about banning books?” Perhaps a follow up question asking Palin, who was mayor of Wasilla in 1996-2002, if she indeed did threaten the Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons (now Baker) with termination if she did not give her “full support” to the mayor. Ask Palin why Ms. Baker left her job of seven years before the start of her second term as mayor?

I find it interesting and a good reminder of why banned books week is necessary. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities.

People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups--or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.