Banned Books Week: Sep 25 to Oct 2

25 Sep

CensorshipIn India, censorship is rampant! It takes many forms and makes its appearance at many levels. But in a strange twisted way, we live in a society that is both highly censored and has the most freedom.

There is a pervading sense that, if one is lucky and has the power and money/knows the right people, one can get away with almost anything – sans consequence – corruption, murder, just to mention a few.

But you will also call down the wrath of “morality” and self-appointed guardians of “Indian culture” upon yourself for many other issues that you might think are your business: what you wear, who you talk to, who you marry, what religion you follow, smoking, drinking, partying, holding hands in public (with someone of the opposite sex), celebrating a silly Hallmark day… These are just some of those things that are closely watched. Watch out for swift punishment if you put a toe out of line when the wrong people are watching.

Strangely, but strangely, I have not been able to find too many books that have been banned here. Apart from religious and political, non fiction books, these are the novels that have been banned in India:

God of Small Things – Arundathi Roy (which I have read and quite liked)

Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie

Lajja – Taslima Nasreen

(Source:Wikipedia)

American classrooms have a lot more drama, with parents objecting to racial, sexual and violent content in books earmarked for study in classrooms. The American Library Association lists all the Banned and/or Challenged Books.

The Banned Books Week aims to celebrate free thought and support books that have been challenged or banned. These novels have been challenged and swept away by censorship at different points in history. Ideas, ideals, prejudices change over time and what was sensitive or shocking or against moral standards at one time, is no longer measured by the same standards. While reading these books, the fun is to imagine living in the period when it was published to understand why it was banned.

The anarchist in me delights in having read some of these books from the Banned list.

Not having found anything to protest about closer to home in this regard, I look across the seas to lend my support to books that are being stifled in the here and now.

Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonOne of them that I’m interested in is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Aimed at Young Adults, this novel tells the story of high school freshman Melinda. Already a social misfit, she becomes a pariah when she calls the police while at a party. This leads to several arrests. But the real reason Melinda calls the cops is because she has been raped by a senior. The story then focuses on how she deals with this trauma.

Protest: Some parents have asked that the book not be included in school curriculum, labeling it soft porn.

Dr. Wesley Scroggins has objected to certain books being allowed as part of school curriculum.

Blogs like Mindful Musings and others are showing their support for the book by organising giveaways of this and other challenged books that include Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.

I reserve comment until I have had a chance to read it myself, but at this point in time, the allegations seems rather exaggerated. I’m not one to blindly trust the establishment, but I have trouble believing that the school curriculum authorities would have included a book that is soft porn. I have no doubt that the description of the rape is disturbing, but calling it soft porn seems way off base.

I’d like to read the book to judge for myself, but or the time-being, I’d rather throw my support behind freedom of expression!

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10 Responses to “Banned Books Week: Sep 25 to Oct 2”

  1. Sakhi September 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    I remember a quote by an author who said that it was an honor to be on the banned books list because that was where all the books worth reading were. 🙂 I don’t think books have should be banned at all. Each person should be allowed to choose their own reading.

    • stargazerpuj September 26, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      I agree – I think everyone, including high school kids, can really be allowed to choose their reading!

  2. PNA September 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    When the society’s secrets are out in the open in the form of a book, it is banned! Because reality to many of us is just surface deep, either we are ignorant about the core or we do not dare to go.

    To me, there is a certain age to read certian books or look out for new knowlegde. That being available before creates danger, that after, is of no use… time of everything and a maturity to understand the wholeness of any issue at hand is required… therefore some objections are raised 😛 The mind is a delicate organ if I can call it an organ…

    • PNA September 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

      I know God of Small Things faced controversies, was it banned?
      But beautifully written, transliteration, magic realism, Roy’s articles are also very powerful, you read her one on the Pokran one …

      • stargazerpuj September 26, 2010 at 11:21 am #

        It was banned for a while, but Roy got it lifted after fighting it out in court.

    • stargazerpuj September 26, 2010 at 11:24 am #

      Age appropriate, true. But I also believe that if something is way beyond someone’s maturity level, they won’t bother to read it. I was never told not to read certain books, but I didn’t read anything that I wasn’t really ready for.

  3. Sinduja September 27, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    Who would ban Winnie the Pooh? Crazy world we live in, when life’s simple and very wise stories are not allowed to be part of one’s growing up. And Hitchhiker’s Guide? What is this – ban fantasy? Crazy crazy world, I tell you….

    • stargazerpuj September 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

      I know. Poor silly Pooh bear. We won’t let them control our fantasy!!

  4. Suzanne L. September 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

    Great Post! Author Carrie Ryan points out in a post (that I’m going to repost this week on my blog) that it’s important for authors to write about “uncomfortable” subjects for the benefit of the children who have no one to talk to about certain subjects. She also says that most YA authors give teens credit for not being brainwashed by reading something in a book.

    My view is that parents should be involved in what their children are reading and discuss and help make appropriate choices for them- NOT everyones children or adults who would like to check out a particular book from the library.

    • stargazerpuj September 29, 2010 at 8:33 am #

      Absolutely – even when kids do have someone to talk to, it really helps if there is a book that they can use as a discussion point with their parents.
      Not being a parent, I guess I haven’t focused on that point of view!

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