Books That Are Made for Burning

Author Ellen Hopkins reads for Banned Books Week, Manifesto

Tomorrow kicks off the 27th annual celebration of Banned Books Week, September 26 – October 3, 2009. First observed in 1982, BBW encourages Americans to embrace their democratic freedom to read what they wish without legal consequences. With the progression of digital medium, though, the event has also come to embrace more forms of reading, including comic books and graphic novels, news sources, blogs, and other forms of expression; BBW has truly morphed into more than what it suggests–it now encompasses the freedom to information, as well, and strives to uphold the First Amendment in all ways possible. It is an event that is mainly sponsored by the American Library Association and endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. This year’s theme is Speak – Read – Know.

Banned Books Week is an active awareness campaign that not only highlights books that have actually been banned from American schools and libraries, but, more importantly, raises awareness about books that are challenged. It’s important to remember that often times books aren’t pulled from shelves in these places because of the hard work of librarians and educators nationwide. In fact, challenged books make up the largest amount of material cataloged by the ALA in their yearly roundup. Either way, it confronts the intellectual equivalent of an attempt to destroy a book, to throw it into a fire to destroy the ideas contained within; it’s a right to access the ALA defends.

Of course, as a literary journal–one that has featured one of this year’s most-challenged authors, Sherman Alexie–we can’t help but support this cause, even on an individual level. You might wonder what you can do to spread the awareness; here are a few ideas…

So, when trying to figure out what book to pick up next, consider choosing one from the list below and celebrate your freedom to find, buy, house, and read any book you choose, whenever you’d like, and remember that books aren’t made for burning–“The paper burns, but the words fly away.”

Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.
–Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959


List of Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009

A Pet Peeve — calling Chutzpa to BBW opposition

Book Burnings: 75th Anniversary of the Nazi Book Burnings

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund