Friday, September 20, 2019

Which Books Should Be Banned?

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The tradition of censorship and book bans is one that spans the globe since the early days of publishing.  Unfortunately it continues today, right here in America, where freedom is supposed to ring true for all.  This coming week is Banned Books Week, where the American Library Association shines a light on censorship.  We should all be concerned.

The ALA reported there were at least 530 attempts to ban materials from schools and libraries in the United States last year.  The ALA launched Banned Books Week in 1982 to call attention to the value of free and open access to information and to highlight the dangers and harms caused by censorship.

So why do some books get banned or censored?

The usual suspects:  religion, sex, politics, language, racism, etc. But it seems odd that in an era where more information is more available than ever before, courtesy of the Internet, that our institutions would still try to act as if the world doesn’t exist, as if facts, ideas, and views can just be ignored or blacked out.

History has been unkind to writers, banning their works, killing or jailing them, banishing some, and subjecting them to public scorn and ridicule.  For writers today, especially in some countries, they pay a huge price and take big risks to publish their works.

Many great writers have been deported and banished from their homelands, including:  Aristotle, Dante, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Ovid, Villon, and Euripides.

American writers who have suffered from book bans include these authors:  Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, Upton Sinclair, Alice Walker, Tennessee Williams, Philip Roth, John Steinbeck, Alfred Kinsey, Thomas Jefferson, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and so many others.

Look at just a sampling of thousands of examples of book bans and censorship:

·         Persian poet Amra Taraja was burned alive in 570 AD because he wrote a couplet critical of the king.

·         In 1931, China banned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because “animals should not use human language and it is disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”

·         Huckleberry Finn was banned by Concord, MA in 1885 because it was “trash and suitable only for the slums.”

·         The American Heritage Dictionary was banned in 1978 by an Eleden, Missouri library because it contained 39 “objectionable” words.

·         The Brooklyn Public Library banned Huckleberry Finn in 1905 from the Children’s Room because it’s a bad example for youth.

·         Shakespeare’s Richard II had a scene deleted by Queen Elizabeth because she did not like when the King is deposed.  For over 30 years King Lear was forbidden on the English stage, due to King George III’s insanity (1788-1820).

We can go on and on.  Every library, bookstore, school, or church can act as a place where information flows freely or they can become battlegrounds for limiting society’s minds.  There are burdens, obligations, and responsibilities that come with what we publish, but our nation must show tolerance for all books, even those we disagree with.  

We can’t really ban ideas, history, or feelings – can we?

For more information on Banned Books Week, please consult:

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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