I’m concerned. While I may come across as flippant, irreverent or just plain vapid, I do think about serious things from time to time. I watch the news with one eye closed, but like most of …
I’m concerned. While I may come across as flippant, irreverent or just plain vapid, I do think about serious things from time to time. I watch the news with one eye closed, but like most of you, feel a need to be informed about the state of the world, and I’m concerned.
Recent headlines about book banning and censorship have reawakened a dragon in my soul, since the subject is fiery and frightening. I keep reading stories about states banning books and politicians using the subject as a platform.
To be honest, it’s freaking me out for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that I’ve written about this subject before.
A quick glance at my old notes indicates that I wrote about this topic 14 years ago. Sarah Palin had been nominated for the vice presidency at the Republican National Convention, shortly after her selection was announced by U.S. Senator John McCain’s campaign. Although her bid alongside McCain was unsuccessful, the 2008 presidential election significantly raised Palin’s national profile, and she had used book-banning as part of that platform.
It’s a matter of public record that while serving as mayor of Wasilla, AK in 1996, Palin asked librarian Mary Ellen Baker “how she could go about banning books,” including Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. According to then-political opponent John Stein, this was “because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them—the librarian was aghast.”
News reports from the time show that Palin had “threatened to fire Baker for not giving ‘full support’ to the mayor.”
The first book on her list was “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle.
Here’s the thing: When I was seven years old, my mother took me by the hand and led me to our local library in downtown Binghamton, NY—which started my journey on that lifelong path of discovery and enlightenment called reading. It was a bright, sunny day and I was still young enough to believe that the world was a beautiful place. My life was filled with joy and laughter, climbing trees and playing “kick the can” until the streetlights came on. With the help of our librarian and the gentle guidance of my mother, I scampered out of the building, my first borrowed books clutched ever so tightly in my tiny, innocent hands. I flew to my room to read L’Engle’s enchanting story, all by myself, for the very first time.
In an instant, I was transported to a new world—one of imagination, creativity and excitement—unleashing the floodgates that to this day, amaze and delight me every time I crack open a new tome.
“A Wrinkle in Time” revolves around a too-smart-for-his-own-good little boy (I could relate), his too-nerdy-for-her-own-good older sister (I had one of those), and their loner-boy neighbor Calvin. (I had a loner-boy neighbor named Happy, believe it or not.)
I devoured their wild and crazy adventures through space and time in a quest to find and connect with their too-often-absent father. The magical, engrossing Nebula Award-winning story made me think, learn, laugh and cry.
Just last month I came across an article about this very same subject, written by CNN analyst Eric Bradner. In it, Bradner states that “As kids, teachers and librarians head back to school this fall, bookshelves around the country are a bit emptier than usual. 1,145 books have been banned by school districts across the United States between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.”
“These numbers are at a historic high,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, who has tracked and analyzed book bans across the country during the more-than-two-decades she worked with the American Library Association (ALA).
A partial list of banned titles includes “A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Color Purple,” the entire “Harry Potter” series and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
I was lucky enough to have had a mom who told me to “look it up in the dictionary” when I came across a word I did not recognize. As a result, reading actually taught, inspired, nurtured and ever so gently nudged me forth into a “Brave New World” (yes, Aldous Huxley is on the list)—a world that the Sarah Palins of the planet would control if they could.
“This frightening thought gives me pause,” I wrote back in 2008. If Palin had been around in 1962 to dictate what books I checked out of the library, would I be who I am today? Would I have matured into the writer I am? Would I have developed the desire to write my thoughts on a blank page?
There are other writers currently being banned across the country, including Chaucer, D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare, Steinbeck and the Brothers Grimm. I can’t imagine a world without them. Thankfully, in today’s world, students can read all of these books simply by going online. But the message being sent is just plain wrong, and incredibly scary. In my humble opinion.
Fun Fact: According to the Google, the most frequently banned book is “1984” by George Orwell. I think that’s the definition of irony. Look it up in the dictionary, while you still can.
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