Friday, October 3, 2008

Banning Books and Prosecuting Authors

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” - Oscar Wilde

Tomorrow (Oct. 4) is the end of Banned Book Week. It’s shocking to me that I am writing about the subject of book bans and prosecuting authors in the United States in the twenty-first century, but here I am.

The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors Banned Books Week. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. The site lists the 10 most challenged books of 2007. You may be surprised to discover that Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier made the list. Click Celebrating the Freedom to Read to view the complete list.

It’s distressing to learn there are groups and individuals who still want to censor our reading material. It seems so easy and logical that if a book’s topic offends you, read something else, much like switching channels on TV. If you don’t want your children to read certain books, monitor them, not everyone else.

Attempting to ban a book is a horrible crime in my opinion, but the case of Karen Fletcher is even worse. I first read about Karen in the September 2, 2008, edition of the News Press in an article by Leonard Pitts, Jr. I read more about the case on the internet. One of the best sources was Muse Free.

Karen faced the possibility of five years in prison, so she accepted a plea that resulted in six months house arrest, five years probation and $1,000 fine instead. Her crime? Writing fiction. She was prosecuted under the federal obscenity statues for writing stories depicting the violent abuse of children. She said these works were her way of coping with the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. No photos or drawings accompanied the tales. She posted them on her web site and charged a reading fee to prevent accidental access by children or adults. She could not fight the charge because she suffers from agoraphobia—a fear of public places—and could not face sitting in a courtroom.

I have not read these stories nor do I want to, but I do defend her right to write them. Does this mean that anyone writing on the subject of child abuse may face the same fate in the future?

Isn’t it ironic that it is okay to have sites where individuals of any age can find detailed instructions on how to build a bomb—something that can cause death and destruction—while writing fictitious stories available to the few that want to read them is a crime?

I’d like to hear your comments on the banning of books and the prosecution of authors.

The Ride has not been banned so if you don’t own a copy yet, you can buy it now from Amazon, or ArcheBooks.

Thanks for stopping by. See you next week.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Tags: The Ride, Archebooks, ALA, Banned Books Week , Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, The Color Purple, Alice Walker, Chocolate War, Robert Cormier, Karen Fletcher, Amazon,Oscar Wilde,Muse Free

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Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world