Banned Books Week 2022

Banned Books Week has been held the last full week of September – so it was actually September 18-24 this year, I’m a little late. It was begun in 1982 to bring attention to attempts to challenge and ban books, a disturbing trend in a s0-called democracy.

According to the American Library Association (ALA), Santa Rosa author (and Iota Press printshop alum!!!) Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir, continues to top the Most Challenged list. The graphic novel tells a personal journey of self-identity, exploring what it means to be nonbinary and asexual. A special deluxe hardcover edition of Gender Queer features a brand-new cover, exclusive art and sketches, a foreword from ND Stevenson, Lumberjanes writer and creator of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and an afterword from Maia Kobabe.

To observe – somehow celebrate doesn’t quite seem like the right word here – this year I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the story of a dystopian future USA as a totalitarian regime with rigid social rules, including the enslavement of the few remaining fertile women. Although I’d seen the movie when it came out in 1990 (!) I’d never read the book. It seemed sadly relevant for the current times, given the rise of proponents of theocracy and curtailment of women’s reproductive rights.

I also finally read The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman. It is a powerful graphic novel that relates both the author’s father’s story of surviving the Holocaust, as well as the author’s difficult relationship with his father, exploring both survival and the legacy of trauma.

So yes, not easy subjects, any of them, but not talking about them doesn’t make them go away. Even if you don’t fully subscribe to Isaac Asimov’s “Any book worth banning is a book worth reading,” it’s worth a few minutes to look at the challenged books lists to see what is being challenged and why. And then there’s Ray Bradbury’s observation, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” When was the last time you read a book?

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