Happy Banned Books Week!
While this is mainly an American event, I thought it might be interesting to look into it and see how it compares to the UK.
While doing a bit of research on what banned book week is all about, I spotted a rather alarming trend in books that made the banned list in schools. Namely, most of them are either queer or written about/by people of colour and their experiences dealing with systemic racism. Some books don’t even have these plots, but just the suggestion is enough to get a book banned. That is ridiculous.
The UK isn’t perfect either in this department. I mean, for crying out loud, look at the fiasco that surrounded DH Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
The plot is simple enough, an upper-class Lady Chatterley is bored, so she decides to have a steamy affair with her married, working-class gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. That sounds like a regular spicy romance to me, but at the time, this was the most scandalous thing put on paper. The book was banned and deemed immoral.
This led to the publisher, Penguin Books being sued after republishing the book. The case is now known as the 1960 obscenity trial. However, this didn’t go to plan as Penguin Books won! Part of this is due to the prosecution being almost comically bad. Highlighting how out of touch with modern society the establishment really was.
In his opening remarks, the prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones said to the working class jury: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?”. My guy, read the room!
This case ended up being a historic one, as it set the precedence for the protection of the freedom of expression.
I can’t help but think how these folk would have reacted to the spicy ebooks being written and read today. You know, the ones with fae and some kinky stuff. Oh, the pearl-clutching would be heard around the world. It’s funny how things change over time.
Other books banned in the UK are The Well of Loneliness (1928) for being about lesbians, Despised and Rejected (1918) for calling out Britain’s involvement in WW1 and sympathetically depicting male homosexuality, Lolita (1955) for being “obscene” and Rights of Man (1791) which was not only banned in the UK but author, Thomas Paine, was charged with treason for supporting the French Revolution.
The most recent book banned here was Lord Horror by David Britton, published in 1990 and banned one year later. The judge ruling over the case ordered the remaining print run to be destroyed. A touch dramatic, I think. The ban was lifted by the Appeal Court in July 1992. However, the book remains out of print. Britton died in 2020.
I, for one, am opposed to any form of limiting expression. Book bans do far more harm than good as far as I am concerned. The only time I see them as justifiable is in the cases of books like The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell, books that teach the general public how to make weapons, drugs and bombs. Although these days you can find that info pretty easily online.
Do you agree or disagree with book bans? Where do you draw the line? I would love to hear your opinions!
I think if the book is promoting ideas that are actually, legitimately harmful to people then it could have the potential to be banned. I’m a believer in “if it’s not hurting anyone, then keep on going.”
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I don’t think any book should ever be banned. My idea of harm is not the same as yours.
Not doubt Donald Trump has one idea and maybe George Soros has another. No doubt Xi Jin Ping has a HUGE list of things he’d consider dangerous and harmful. Left wing college academia probably has a lot of books they’d love to ban as hate speech while fundamentalist Christians would like to ban a different list for promoting sin.
It is bad enough that YouTube and Facebook are so extreme that people have turned to using euphemisms for words or dancing around topics. “I can’t use this word or I might be demonetized.” At least they are private companies. To have the government do this would be a shortcut to something truly dangerous.
If you really want an idea to spread, try suppressing it. Nothing popularizes a book (film/podcast/whatever) quite like banning it.
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