Two years ago we put together a small display of banned books at the Frances-Henry Library. We focused on censorship imposed on Jewish world texts, whether exercised by outsiders who banned, burned and “edited” Jewish sacred and secular texts, or by insiders; rabbis, librarians, teachers who stopped short of burning books, but did not shy away from banishing, banning and censoring books that they deemed blasphemous, inappropriate, and sacrilegious.
This year, as the Banned Books Week approaches (September 24-October 1), I find myself, once again, puzzled by the fact that more than 500 years after the invention of moveable print, and two decades of a constantly expanding Internet, we still need to remind ourselves that banning books is almost as common as publishing them, and that some people and institutions are still threatened by the endless possibilities of open access and the freedom to read.
The books I chose to display are my own, part of a collection I use when I teach about censorship and the power of reading. You, too, have some banned books in your libraries. Just look at the lists published by the American Library Association at: http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/bannedbooksweek/index.cfm
I guarantee that you will find some old friends listed.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884/1885)
Harry Potter (1997-2007)
Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Clockwork Orange (1962)
Animal Farm (1945)
What’s Wrong (2000)