By DENA EAKLES | rural Ontario
“Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us” is this year’s slogan for Banned Books Week (https://bannedbooksweek.org), Sept. 18–24.
In recognition of the upcoming week, I took a deep dive into the list of classics that are banned or challenged on the American Library Association’s website. Unsurprisingly, I found some of my favorite authors: Faulkner, Hemingway, Morrison, Steinbeck, Alice Walker, and James Baldwin. Seeing Richard Wright’s “Native Son” took me back to a high school English class and the horror I felt at the shocking truth it taught me about race relations in this country.
I’m forever grateful to the teachers who encouraged us to step out of our parochial view of the world. Through books, they opened the door of our mutual humanity, in all of its complexities, glory, and ugliness.
I learned that I had nothing to fear in words or ideas. I learned that the free will to choose is a powerful tool and that the ability to discern right from wrong is an inherited strength that can be honed. In reading about diverse people, empathy grew. In understanding history from those who lived through wars and the Depression, I recognized the wisdom of not allowing ignorance to rule.
Those who fear books and the ideas expressed within them cling to a worldview as skewed as the ones they fear. Those who would ban books are afraid to open minds and hearts to a broader humanity. They curtail understanding and are a curse to upcoming generations.
Fear is not what we need to propagate. Censorship is not a game to be played. Self-reflection is a worthy art, and when we understand we are a fraction of the human kaleidoscope, life becomes a wondrous journey.
No one should have the right to clip the wings of freedom. In truth, no one can. Ideas are born within the breath of every unique individual.
And that cannot be banned.