This week is the annual Banned Book Week, a celebration of banning books throughout history! Okay well so not like a celebration of the actual act itself of banning books, but rather an historical acknowledgement of our messed-up societal history of censorship, both in its retrospective absurdities, and its horrifying modern relevance. I feel like it was stressed from a very early point in my educational experience that the banning of books was the trademark of a corrupt and/or totalitarian society and therefore the antithesis of the "Yay American Dream" that we were raised to believe in. Unfortunately, there are still stories being banned all across the country — let alone the rest of the world — and it's important to bring attention to these injustices and help make people aware of the inherent problems of such censorship (and to be clear, the censorship of stories by institutional authorities is much much much much much different from the censorship of, say, a bigoted, racist, shit-spewing asshole on Fox News who gets in trouble and loses his job for being a bigoted racist shit-spewing asshole. "Freedom of Speech" and "Freedom from Consequences" are two very different things).
Here's a compilation / rundown of some of my favorite links and infographics from various Banned Book Week celebrations all across the internets:
Banned Books Week Handbook
To kick things off, here's a downloadable PDF booklet courtesy of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (whose Executive Director, Charlie Brownstein, has lots of horrifying stories about questionable legal cases he's been involved in that have basically been created to prosecute nerds for being nerds). Straight from their website:
The CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook is a free resource that gives you the scoop about what comics are banned, how to report and fight censorship, and how to make a celebration of Banned Books Week in your community! CBLDF’s Banned Books Week Handbook is an essential tool to assist librarians, educators, and retailers in planning their Banned Books Week celebrations, while also being a vital reference to help readers everywhere fight censorship.
A Map of Comic Book Burnings Across America
Courtesy of Tor.com, because apparently some people still think its okay to literally burn books.
I commend you if you can make it past Where's Waldo? and The Giving Tree without throwing your computer/tablet/phone down on the ground in a fit of rage and screaming "Are you &$#@ing kidding me?!" Courtesy of Buzzfeed (ughhhhh I know. But they do have some decent literary coverage).
Banned Books by the Numbers (Infographic)
A whole bunch of helpful and pretty pictures courtesy of Huffington Post.
Including the censorship of Shakespeare himself by getting rid of some of his best dirty jokes. Courtesy of Huffington Post.
Writers in Prison, and Not Even Explicitly Because Of Their Books (Infographic)
(Okay maybe not quite "Nuff said" — there are obviously lots of legitimate reasons that someone who happens to be a published writer could land in jail [especially considering the proclivity of us writer-types to all sorts of illegal habits and entertainments]. But if that's your detractors' argument, well, I challenge you to prove that none of these people were jailed in relation to their use of the written word, regardless of whatever bullshit legalese may have been employed to get them behind the bars)
Obviously I love comic books, so I have a particular passion for this list. Despite (or perhaps, as demonstrated by?) the stunted growth of the comic book medium caused by the Comics Code Authority, comics have largely occupied a subversive position in popular / literary culture — especially during the 80s, when writers like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and Howard Chaykin used the otherwise-ignored medium to tell some remarkably cutting-edge and socially progressive stories. This unfortunately backfired in a few cases, with some jerks clamoring about perverts corrupting their 4-color superhero classics, clearly ignorant of comics' radical history (conservatives be warned: comic books were feminist / radical / progressive even as far back as 1941 when William Moulton Marston, the inventor of the polygraph test and also a man in a polyamorous relationship with two women who remained faithful to one another for thirty years after his death, created a little-known superheroine known as Wonder Woman).
This link also courtesy of Buzzfeed ughhhhhhhhh.