This year, Banned Books Week takes place September 21 through the 27th. You can find out more information and view a list of Banned and Challenged classics by clicking this link. Did you know that both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are on that list? In preparation for Banned Books Week, I’d like to call on my Grey Havens YA members to be a part of this event! There are two ways you can contribute:
1. The American Library Association is hosting a Banned Books Virtual Read-Out. You can film yourself reading a passage from a banned book and/or talking about a banned or challenged book that you love and why it would be awful if no one else got to read that book. Please click the link for more information. If you are interested in filming but don’t have the ability/don’t want to do it yourself, Kelly is going to be filming at the library, please email us at email@example.com or respond to this blog post.
2. I would LOVE for the Grey Havens YA blog to be populated with content during Banned Books Week. Do you have a favorite quote from a banned or challenged book? Do you have something to say about book banning and censorship in general? Do you want to share some book banning trivia? Please please write a blog post, comment here, or email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents, members AND the wider Grey Havens YA community are ALL welcome to participate!
To kick things off, I’m going to share a few passages from Ray Bradbury and his novel Fahrenheit 451. I want to talk about Bradbury not because of his challenged books but because of his enthusiastic support of uncensored literature and the power of reading. While not banned outright, Bradbury’s 1953 novel about censorship was ironically censored because of the swear words he used. Here was his response to the unauthorized editing of his work:
“In sum, do not insult me with the beheadings, finger choppings or the lung-deflations you plan for my works. I need my head to shake or nod, my hand to wave or make into a fist, my lungs to shout or whisper with. I will not go gently onto a shelf, degutted, to become a non-book. All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees hit the showers. It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset I’ve won or lost. At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try. And no one can help me. Not even you.”
In Fahrenheit 451, the world has become a “utopia” in which there are no books. To ensure that pleasure, happiness, and equality aren’t wrecked by literature and the thoughts of a well-read individual, it is the fireman’s job to burn books. The Firemen call themselves the “Happiness Boys,” and the “custodians of our peace of mind.”
Pause. Now, I have to confess that when choosing a quote to share with you, I struggled with finding one that seemed “appropriate” enough for our age range, eleven to seventeen-year-olds. I didn’t want to cut any of Bradbury’s words short, but I also didn’t want to offend anyone who may be reading… It was an interesting question I found myself wrestling with. I’ve decided to include the entire quote below. Please feel free to comment on that decision; it is a great topic to discuss during Banned Books Week.
In this excerpt, the fire captain explains why books have no place in the new society: “If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood. If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, topheavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy. Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again and most men can, nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won’t be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely.”
In a 2003 interview published in the 50th anniversary edition of the novel, Bradbury was asked about the importance of reading for the health of a nation. He answered: “Let’s imagine there’s an earthquake tomorrow in the average university town. If only two buildings remained intact at the end of the earthquake, what would they have to be in order to rebuild everything that had been lost? Number one would be the medical building, because you need that to help people survive, to heal injuries and sickness. The other building would be the library. All the other buildings are contained in that one. People could go into the library and get all the books they needed in literature or social economics or politics or engineering and take the books out on the lawn and sit down and read. Reading is at the center of our lives. The library is our brain. Without the library, you have no civilization.”
Now it’s your turn! Send us an owl: Do you think Bradbury is right about the significance of a library? What about the idea that some books can and should make us uncomfortable… Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Bonus Question: What does this make you think about why there are no books in The Giver?
And of course: Don’t forget to send us your contributions for Banned Books Week!