Sunday Morning War of words: The fight over banning books
“Catch-22,” Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” “The Great Gatsby,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” “Lord of the Flies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” … classics, and every one of them banned in some places. Said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, “There was somebody who objected to the profanity, or the challenge to the status quo.”
The Chicago Public Library put them on display, in defiance of efforts nationwide to ban books.
“I should say, it doesn’t stop with just banning books. What we’re seeing across the country is they’re banning voices, modern voices, librarians, teachers,” said Patrick Stewart, CEO of the San Diego Public Library Foundation. “It’s gone beyond just the banning of a book, or a certain piece of literature or textbook.”
Stewart joined San Diego Public Library director Misty Jones on Midday Edition Monday to talk about their reaction to the report’s findings.
“It’s disheartening,” Jones said. “It is seeing just the increase in the number not only of challenges, but the extent and the links to what people are going for, these challenges going before school boards, the personal attacks on librarians and teachers for doing their job.”
Many of the books being targeted involve topics on race and sexuality.
The book-burning began only 100 days after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933.
Torchlight parades in 34 university towns led to bonfires where more than 25,000 volumes went up in flames for being “un-German.”
Among them were the works of Germans Thomas Mann, a Nobel-prize winner and anti-Nazi; Erich Maria Remarque, the anti-war author of All Quiet on the Western Front; and the 19th century Jewish-born poet Heinrich Heine, who had written prophetically, “Wherever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people.”
American writers Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway and even Helen Keller were among the verboten.
In response to the more than 1,500 books challenged to be removed from libraries in the last year, the New York Public Library launched an effort to make some banned books available for everyone — for free.
The initiative is called Books for All and allows any reader aged 13 and older to access commonly banned books through the library’s app until the end of May. There are no wait times to access the books and no fines, the library said. Typically, access to books at the New York Public Library are only available to New Yorkers with a library card.
“The recent instances of both attempted and successful book banning —primarily on titles that explore race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history — are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library.
“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous, breeding hate and division … Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all,” Marx said.
The New York Public Library’s efforts launched on April 13. The books currently available are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.