It’s that time of the year again, a time when readers, writers, and publishers everywhere are reminded of the fragility of free speech, even within a country that purportedly protects it. Though this will be the 32nd year of the annual freedom to read celebration, the reality is that book banning is still distressingly common. “It takes guts to take a stand against censorship,” free speech activist Chris Finan recently remarked in response to the banning of Emily M. Danforth’s teen novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Finan is president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and author of From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the Fight for Free Speech in America, the first comprehensive history of free speech in America for general readers, and a book that should be required reading for Banned Books Week.
Fortunately for readers, book banning rarely works the way intended by censors, and many books that were once banned are now the very fabric of American literature. As Upton Sinclair famously quipped, “I would rather be banned in Boston than read anywhere else because when you are banned in Boston, you are read everywhere else.” Journalist Neil Miller’s book, Banned in Boston, whose title borrows from that quote, is an entertaining romp through the annals of misplaced moralism of 19th Century Boston, and another must-read for Banned Books Week.
This year, celebrate free speech by exercising your constitutional right to read!