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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Week highlights freedom to read

“”I think we ought to read only the kinds of books that wound and stab us … We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”” — Franz Kafka, 1904

Coinciding perfectly with the UA’s own free speech chalk controversy, Sept. 26 through Oct. 3rd is Banned Books Week.

Promoted by the American Library Association, organizers hope this week will encourage the freedom to read and stress the importance of the First Amendment. Sure, cynics could argue the calendar event exists to drive traffic to libraries and customers to their local Borders display table, but the Daily Wildcat supports any event that promotes the free exchange of ideas, however unpopular. Call us misty-eyed idealists, but we don’t like censorship.

Fortunately, we live in a country where adults are free to seek out whatever reading material they choose. The library association’s Web site says that, frequently, challenges to books are used to shield children and teens from difficult ideas and information.

But to restrict information accomplishes nothing. Children will grow into adults who will be exposed to more than just foul language. Literature can and will open readers up to reality and prepare them for real-world brutalities. It’s important to spread the message that a book like “”The Catcher in the Rye”” is more than the sum of its swear words.

On the ALA’s Web site, the association explains that while the books highlighted during Banned Books Week were targeted for censorship, “”fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned.””

Interestingly enough, banned and challenged books tend to be highly sought-after among readers. In 2008, 513 book challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, and one of the most popular challenges was New York Times bestseller “”The Kite Runner”” by Khaled Hosseini.

In other countries, book banning is more serious than in elementary school libraries. Oppressive regimes often seek to destroy political texts and fiction that does not promote the nationalism of those in power.

Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s book on Christianity and pacifism, “”The Kingdom of God is Within You,”” was banned in his native country for being anti-establishment. Banned Books Week is a good time to be in the United States: We can read, write, say and chalk whatever the hell we want.

And this is where the reader expects the Daily Wildcat to say, “”Go out and read a banned book!””

Well, yes, by all means do that. But we’re college students, let’s up the ante a little bit.

Instead of going home and cracking open a copy of “”The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,”” we say go out and read a book you think maybe should be banned.

Of course, you’d never ban a book, especially after reading this editorial, but let’s just say, if you had to ban one piece of repulsive, abhorrent or subversive literature, what would it be?

Read that. Go out and find a book that will make you mad. You’ll be a better person for it.

In the words of oft-banned poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, “”Every burned book enlightens the world.””

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Alex Dalenberg, Justyn Dillingham, Laura Donovan, Heather Price-Wright, Dan Sotelo and Anna Swenson.

 

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