These words are from Maya Angelou’s book of poetry, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Unfortunately, you might never have heard these words before, through no fault of your own.
This famous collection that won the Pulitzer Prize was ranked number three on the list for Top Banned/Challenged Books: 1990-2000 and number six on 2000-2010 list, released by the American Library Association.
Sept. 30 to Oct. 6. marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Awareness Week, More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 when the American Library Association launched its anti-censorship response to the surge of “book bashing”, done by parents and communities in mostly eastern schools.
The most common reasons that books are banned is because they are judged to be sexually explicit, unsuited for a certain age group or contain offensive language, according to the ALA. Such concerns may be justified in certain situations, but removing the “Diary of Anne Frank” because it is thought to contain “sexually explicit and homosexual themes” is censorship at its worst.
And banning “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” because its author Eric Carle supposedly has the same name as an obscure Marxist is simply insane. Fanatics who burn books, such as “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, because they include “communist ideas” should spend a few minutes considering the irony of that action.
Some Americans may assume that the Constitution includes provisions against this kind of censorship, but it does not. Local censorship according to community standards is legal.
Organizations that are devoted to banning books that they disapprove from schools argue that they are justified by the law.
Parents Against Bad Books in Schools often quotes the constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which sates “the entire scheme of instruction in the public schools shall emphasize moral education.”
Usually, books are banned after parents bring their complaints to their children’s school library. The library typically forms a committee to review the complaint and the book in question and decide whether or not to remove the book from circulation. Books are often banned without the public ever hearing about the controversy.
Part of the reason Angelou’s work means so much to African-American woman and to all women is that she is real. Angelou’s book of poetry describes some of what she went through as a teenager, including sexual abuse and racism.
This is no cookie-cutter teen angst story; it’s exactly what we need.
This college generation comes from blended families, diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Today’s young people have been through experiences that would make even the most stoic cringe. We want stories that reflect who we are, crazy quirks and all.
Angelou one of many censored authors of great literature. Classics such as “The Catcher in the Rye,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Color Purple” have made the infamous list. Books we read as children and still love, such as the Harry Potter series, “Bridge to Terabithia,” and the “Captain Underpants” series are on it too. These books helped inspire us with the thought that good things happen to good people, that anything is possible and that superheroes get to run around in their underwear.
Books can teach us about places we have never been before and people we have never met before. They can teach us to be tolerant. When I read, I expect more than half-truths and one-sided tales. I want books that are as complex as I am, full of conflict and contradiction.
Restricting of free thought is dangerous. The idea that one person or group can dictate what is right or wrong for them to read or think is ludicrous.
Public services librarian, Sarah Bosler said that what she likes best about her job is creating a collection of books that reflects every age, race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation of the campus community.
“Our collection tries to be a mirror of the students,” she said.
People are all different. Life is complicated. There is no such thing as black or white. We are all 50 shades of grey.
The Hayden Library at Citrus College is participating in Banned Books Awareness Week by setting up displays of challenged books. People around the globe are encouraged to record themselves reading a passage from a banned book and post it on www.bannedbooksweek.org.
So the next time you are in the library, pick up a banned book, settle into a comfy chair and spend an hour or so celebrating the right to read. Would that everyone in every corner of the earth were so fortunate.