Since the beginning of September, I had been sporting a Banned Books Week pin. Atop the promotion for fREADom, I had affixed an added message: "I SELL BANNED BOOKS." This pin has provoked discussion. I was wearing it when I went to the Saturday morning "farmer's market" on Haymarket Square in Dixon (kitty corner to the post office). When someone asked what the pin meant, I launched into the "September is Banned Book Month. It's to raise awareness of just how many books are still being banned or challenged," spiel. The discussion began with two neighboring merchants agreeing that if people didn't want to read or watch something, then don't, but don't impose their views on others. Somehow, it veered into Miley Cyrus's performance and then, how as long ago as "when Mary Dixon was little," kids were watching PG13 or R-rated films and counting how many times a character on-screen said a "dirty word." I think the summation of that was that children are exposed to adverse conditions in all sorts of ways, but it doesn't mean they'll grow up bad. I don't believe banned books got much play in that discussion.
Nevertheless, the sentiment is there. Why are there those among us who want to hide books away from others or even burn them? We have had titles ranging from a glossy pictorial biography of Marilyn Manson to the annual Witch's Almanac to Billy Collins's books stolen, and not by teenagers or destitute Wiccans or unprincipled poetry lovers. They are discovered gone after older, theoretically more mature browsers leave the premises after having walked the entire store without purchasing a cup of coffee much less a book. How can they possibly give money to such purveyors of sinful influence as we are? It is best to smuggle away the trash so that innocent minds would not be polluted. Patrons who are more honest or more optimistic that they can change our ways bring the offensive books to us and ask us to take them off the shelf. We very kindly smile, wait for them to leave and return the books to their rightful places.
There're a lot of books I wouldn't read, mainly because of the poor grammar, lack of research as manifested in glaring errors in fact and science, fantastical plots in non-fantasy stories, etc, but I don't argue their right to exist, to influence young minds (to create yet more ungrammatical and poorly researched books). Whether because the book encourages us to think differently about our surroundings, tells us more about a subject we thought we knew all about or nothing about and didn't care to know more about or simply entertains us, each book is important in its own right and thus, writers of books, readers of books and preservers of books are all important.
Hail, hail to books. Fight censorship. Advocate for expression, enlightenment, entertainment, ego-building, education, and all the good (if scary or difficult or unknown) stuff. Read a banned book today. Learn more at American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression or www.bannedbooksweek.org.
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