Category Archives: Banned Books

Be a Book Friend

Today’s post isn’t about writing, or what I’m reading (Return of the Crimson Guard, Alif the Invisible, and I just started Ship of Fools). I have another flash piece coming out in the morning, too. But my life isn’t all books and reading and writing about books and reading. Tuesday, I went to the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Ponce de Leon (Atlanta) Branch Library.

I’ve never actually been part of a Friends of the Library organization. though I’ve run the libraries on two of my ships, and worked with a couple of literacy programs. The idea, though, fascinates me, and I highly recommend everyone reading this to go check out your own library’s programs.

I’ve tagged this post “Banned Books Week” because I really wish I’d posted this last back then. It’s one thing to talk about saving a book that people are trying to ban, restrict, or otherwise make unavailable. But what about the vast majority of books that aren’t banned? Millions of them, literally, are pulped every year, and not just because they’re falling apart, or because they’re unneeded copies of books that no longer have the demand they once did; library branches close, or they can’t afford new space, or many other reasons. On top of that, while worldwide literacy (let alone US literacy) is at its highest level ever, that  does not mean everyone is book-literate, or computer-literate. Every library I’ve been to, especially city libraries, has programs to address just these issues, but people who care about books and about reading have to do something about it.

After all, the best way to get rid of something is to simply not care about it.

 

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Banned Books Week: The PC Brigade

I’m relaxing my view that books that we call ‘banned’ should legally be banned, partly because I’ve always thought this was a good story, and partly because the accused really did run into legal trouble because of a book he was reading. Also, the other posts were about how hardline conservatives banned books because of content that threatened their regime. Here, we have a story about a book that was banned because of liberal impulses. The effect was still the same, though, and the agency attempting to ban it was just as rigid and unbending as any religious government moral watchdog could be.

The story, linked below, is about a 54 year old janitor, a white male, at Notre Dame, who was also a communications major at the same school. On his break, he decided to read, and someone reported him for racial harassment, a charge the Dean  held to be valid. You see, the book he was reading had pictures of Klansmen in hoods flanking a burning cross that was planted on Notre Dame grounds. Now, at first glance, this indeed looks like an obvious case of someone perhaps trying to harass people, or maybe intimidate them, until you look at the man’s defense. The book itself, Notre Dame Vs The Clan, is about how Notre Dame, students and faculty, clashed with Klansmen in the 1920s. (An aside… As someone who grew up in the Midwest and now lives in the south, I can definitely affirm that the Klan, and Klan-like attitudes, are more prevalent in the alleged ‘free north’ than in the south, but that is a subject for another post.) Additionally, the alleged racial harasser had found the book in Notre Dame’s own library. And it wasn’t like he was going around telling people that he wished the Klan hadn’t lost. He was simply reading a university book about university history in a university break room. Yet, until FIRE (that wonderful organization that fights for free speech in educational institutions) came along, the administration refused to budge from their finding that, since he was reading a book about an abhorrent period of US History, he was guilty of racially harassing his colleagues. 

That line of thinking is what really bothers me. Our society depends on the free flow of information, as does the science of history. Indiana and Michigan and other Midwest states did indeed have a history with the KKK, and it’s important for 21st century students to know about this and study it. If people think that something never happened, they’ll be surprised when it happens again, rather than being prepared and doing what they can to prevent it. Blocking uncomfortable truths, whether to protect the majority or to protect a minority, is never the answer, and is its own form of discrimination. 

Further reading

 

 

Banned Books Week: The Satanic Bible

Today’s Banned Books post is going to be short, sweet, and to the point, since I have a few other things to put up in the course of the day, and I still have to finish a story for an end-of-month deadline. Researching today’s book also dragged up a lot of memories that I’d like to nail down to actual facts and share with you. But for now, we’re just going to talk about one book, Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, and the country which saw fit to ban it as an affront to its morals. This particular country’s government was so concerned that its citizens might be led to do things that were immoral, rude, or anti-Christian, that they completely banned the book. I’m talking about South Africa. Apartheid South Africa, in particular. The book was banned from the early 70s to 1993.

Good thing they had every other problem settled, right?

As a side note, I’m most definitely not a Satanist (Jewish-Taoist more than anything else) but Satanism, at least Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, does not equal Devil Worship. At its core, it’s worship and idealization of one’s self. The label definitely stirs up a visceral reaction among people who hear it, though.

Later, maybe we can talk about Satanic Panics… especially the conviction in the 1980s that every town hosted a Black Mass that kidnapped children from day cares and made them eat babies because a Judas Priest record told them to do it, and other such nonsense that people actually believed. I blame the extreme amounts of hairspray floating around.