One last quick reminder that I’ll be onstage for a literary reading at the Panoply Arts Festival in Huntsville, Alabama in just a few days! If you’re in the area, I’d love to meet you after I do a short reading on the Art OutLoud Stage at 3:00 p.m. CT on Saturday, April 29. You can find out more and buy your tickets to the festival here. Note that buying them online ($10 day pass) is less expensive than at the gate ($15). Now on to my celebration today…
The American Library Association (ALA) has declared today Right to Read Day to kickoff National Library Week. This is also to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their Unite Against Book Bans campaign. I have joined this initiative because I firmly believe in the individual right to read. I even ordered the t-shirt to show my solidarity in this campaign.
In fact, I started quite young with this notion firmly fixed in my mind. I was 13 years old when a friend leant me a book, which actually belonged to her mother. The book in question was a 1970s-style bodice-ripper romance by Rosemary Rogers—yes, the kind that actually included ripping of the woman’s bodice! I devoured that book too. My friend had read it and thought I’d enjoy it, and she was right. When I showed it to my mother, however, she promptly threw it in the garbage and forbade me from retrieving it even to return it. I thought she might want to read it too. What a surprise! Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about having to tell my friend about the episode. But it spoke volumes to me about the woman who was my mother. I loved my mother but we did not see eye-to-eye on very much. That’s an entirely different story…
Even now, nearly 50 years later, I’m upset on my friend’s behalf and on my own because my mother thought it was okay to throw away the book. No. Just no. It’s fine if you don’t want to read something. It’s fine if parents want to guide and supervise their children’s reading. But to throw the book away, or worse to attempt to ban the book so nobody else can read it? No.
If my mother had calmly explained to me why she didn’t want me to read romances, perhaps it would have influenced my future selections until I was older. Perhaps not. I cannot pretend to second-guess my young adolescent self’s reaction. When one is told they’re not allowed to do something, it becomes all the more tantalizing, doesn’t it? Can’t you hear the inner voice demanding, Why can’t I? Who says? I can too! I know I can, anyway.
Banning books doesn’t lead to a better society. It leads to limited access to options, limited access to possibilities, limited access to knowledge in general. We learn so much from reading widely, not just prescribed tomes “approved” by others. Others who do not want what is best for individuals, but what they feel is best based on their own fears and insecurities. Like bullies, they lash out in weakness and worry about the content of the books. The knowledge those books convey lends power to the readers, strength to sort through available options to choose a path forward.
Book bans also have the sense of bowing to dictators in our democracy. Something we absolutely should not tolerate. We do not live in an autocratic, dictatorial society, but one of freedoms and rights. The First Amendment to the Constitution demands “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” thus providing all Americans with the right to freedom of speech and of the press to print/publish whatever they desire. Which essentially boils down to whatever they feel they can sell, or that has a market. No publisher/press is going to print things they can’t even give away let alone profit from. Banning those products achieves what exactly? It’s rather like bad reviews that actually point out the theoretical negative aspects of the book’s contents that actually many readers are seeking and so the book sells more copies than before. Yet another instance of a difference of opinion on what is worth reading/buying. Bans backfire, in other words.
Let’s not go back to the book bonfires of old, please! It’s better to have access to information, to history, to philosophies that differ from your own. You’ll learn so much more that way: what you agree with, what you disagree with, what you need to find out more about before you can decide one way or the other. Reading widely yields educated, knowledgeable, thoughtful people in our society.
So, as I say all the time…
P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!
Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.
Fury Falls Inn in 1821 Alabama. A place for ghosts, witches, and magic. A place of secrets and hidden dangers.
Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. Her plan? Seduce the young man, who is acting as innkeeper while her father is away on business, into marrying her. But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. He quickly learns that running a roadside inn in northern Alabama in 1821 means dealing not only with the young woman and her hostile mother but also with horse thieves and rogues. When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint are forced to face unforeseen challenges and dangerous decisions together in order to attempt to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who doesn’t have any plan to leave…
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