Freedom to Read…

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. – from the Freedom to Read site

I personally don’t believe in censorship; I’m a pro-choice chick all the way. I agree – there’s a lot of abhorrent crap out there, but my problem with censorship is who gets to decide whether it is or isn’t abhorrent crap. The closest I’ve come to questioning the merit of a book was reading about Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, a married couple responsible for the death of three young girls including Homolka’s sister.

Freedom to Read has a wonderful list of writing that has been banned over the ages including:

“George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede was attacked as the “vile outpourings of a lewd woman’s mind,” and the book was withdrawn from circulation libraries in Britain.

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (published in 1833) was threatened with banning by Boston’s district attorney unless the book was expurgated. The public uproar brought such sales of his books that Whitman was able to buy a house with the proceeds.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was banned by the governor of Hunan province in China because, he said, animals should not use human language and it was disastrous to put animals and humans on the same level.

D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the subject of a trial in England, in which Penguin Books was prosecuted for publishing an obscene book. During the proceedings, the prosecutor asked: “Is it a book you would wish your wife or servant to read?” Penguin won the case, and the book was allowed to be sold in England. A year earlier, the U.S. Post Office had declared the novel obscene and non-mailable. But a federal judge overturned the Post Office’s decision and questioned the right of the postmaster general to decide what was or was not obscene.”

And here’s a real shocker…”The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, 2001,  passed by the American Congress in response to terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, gave the FBI power to collect information about the library borrowings of any U.S. citizen. The act also empowered the federal agency to gain access to library patrons’ log-ons to Internet Web sites—and protected the FBI from disclosing the identities of individuals being investigated.”

Read more about censored books here.

Here in Canada, the following books have been challenged at one point or another:

  • Margaret Laurence, The Diviners
  • J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye
  • Rosamund Elwin, Asha’s Mums
  • Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women
  • Elizabeth Laird, A Little Piece of Ground
  • Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  • John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter
  • Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

A full list of  material challenged in Canada can be found here.

Do you have personal feelings about censorship?

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