Banning books in America. Doesn't that sound like an oxymoron? Yet both classic books and new, mainstream titles such as The Hunger Games, Water for Elephants and Fifty Shades of Grey are banned in communities across our country. In response, the annual Banned Books Week event (which started on September 30 this year) celebrates the freedom to read.
Local schools and libraries continue to ban books, rationalizing that their actions will protect children from sexual language or shield a community from religious attacks. But at the end of the day, this is nothing more than censorship.
When I cofounded Open Road Media, a digital publishing company, our intention was to reintroduce great works to a new generation of readers by publishing these titles as ebooks. Among our early releases were the novels of William Styron, including Sophie's Choice, a banned book; and multiple titles by Alice Walker, whose novel The Color Purple tops all the banned-books lists. We published most of the works of James Jones, whose classic war novel From Here to Eternity had been greatly censored on its first release in 1951. In 2011, we released a new version that reinstated Jones's original text.
We did not specifically seek to publish books that had been banned. We look for books that have resonated with readers and will continue to do so as they become more and more available electronically. And those books include Exodus by Leon Uris; Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.; The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck; Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, and Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George. All banned books.
And then there are books such as Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer and The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. How can these books be considered threatening or obscene?
So let's celebrate Banned Books Week by reading many of these books that have been unfairly censored.
As Bette Greene said: "Without freedom of speech, there is no freedom."
Do you have a particular banned book that you would like to share?
For videos and more about Open Road Media's Banned Books visit http://www.openroadmedia.com/bannedbooks/.