“If this nation is to be both wise and strong, if we are to fulfill our destiny, then we need more new ideas so that more wise men read more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to everyone except the censor. We need to know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let’s welcome controversial books and controversial authors. Because the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our freedom. “ [Response to questionnaire in Saturday Review, Oct. 29, 1960]”~ John F. Kennedy
These wise words were written over 60 years ago, but they are even more relevant today.
Each year, the last week of September is set aside by American libraries to recognize censorship struggles. Forbidden Book Week celebrates the freedom to read. It focuses on current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
The classics “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee are usually among the exhibits. These two books deal with the harsh realities of racism and disparities.
Books on display at the Enid and Garfield County Public Library this year include these classics, as well as more contemporary books that deal primarily with LGBTQ + issues, racism, prejudice, sexuality, misogyny, child abuse, etc. Most of these books are up to date. and realistic, which can be uncomfortable for some people.
Some books have been banned or contested because their authors have made controversial statements or because the subject does not hold up in today’s society. However, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular the language or opinions expressed may be, books should not be withdrawn from public use because some find them objectionable.
Of course, not all books are intended for all readers. However, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to or see. We have the right and the duty to share ideas, to debate ideas and to present convincing arguments for or against ideas.
As part of the 2021 Forbidden Book Week theme, “Books unite us. Censorship Divides Us, ”the American Libraries Association urges everyone to make a point of reading at least one of the books on the list. There are a few classics on the list as we mentioned. And there are others that explore more current topics and events.
Perhaps we can all be enlightened by choosing a book that does not match our preconceptions or personal experiences. Reading such a book might open up a conversation or a desire to explore hot topics in more depth. We are also free to put this book aside if we find the topic objectionable.
News & Eagle’s editorial board meets weekly to formulate the newspaper’s positions on primarily local and state and sometimes national issues.
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