Happy Banned Books Week, everybody! I’m celebrating this week (Sept. 22-29) by collecting some of my favorite banned books and putting them in my online bookstore. You can find that collection here.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before in blog posts and on social media, but I am very lucky to have a mom who let me read anything. Anything. Any time. She kind of kept an eye out for age appropriateness, but not too much. I read beyond my level as a kid, but there were adult themes that I had to grow into like everyone else. But Mom let me pick my own books and read what I wanted, as did the school and local librarians. If a book was beyond me, I just stopped reading it and came back to it years later.
When I created the collection of banned books for the shop, I used the American Library Association’s list of banned books, especially the classics list and the diverse list. I’ve read almost everything on the classics list, and much of it before I’d graduated high school.
The diverse list had more new titles for me, but that’s because a lot of the books on that list are books for children, middle grade, or young adult readers, and they’ve come out since I graduated college. I didn’t read them when I was young because they just weren’t there. But I am very glad they’re available now for kids reading today, and I hope to see more diversity in publishing going forward. I’m doing my best as a book editor to help make that happen.
Many of those more recently banned books are by or about people of color and LGBTQ+ people. Merely accepting the humanity of marginalized people is, for some folks who probably are not readers themselves, worth trying to get a book banned. My eyes, they cannot roll hard enough. But I can work to create more opportunities for more kinds of authors to publish great books about more kinds of people.
Remember, some of the books we consider Important Literary Works were burned by Nazis in 1933, including Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and even Jack London’s Call of the Wild, which I’m sure you recall is about a dog. And freedom.