Awhile ago, I heard about how the Merdian, Idaho School district removed the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian” from its curriculum. So a student helped give away the books as part of an event called World Book Night.
So some parent called the cops on them. Really.
Now this got me thinking. Not just that some people really need to get boundaries, or that it seem son one realizes that banning something makes teenagers want it more. It made me think about banned books and geekdom.
Geeks in general don’t like censorship and we’ll regularly read things that will melt people’s brains. We’re also pro-literacy in many cases, and we’re organized.
Also, frankly, I’m anti-censorship. Good citizenship is about the intelligent handling of ideas.
So I’m thinking we geeks ought to get in on this Making Banned Books available thing.
CONVENTION BANNED BOOKS EVENT:
So my basic idea is this.
Appropriate conventions (those with a heavy literary element and that are large enough) should host a banned book giveaway. Have a room, open with donated copies of various banned books that would be available to all comers. Perhaps there would be donation boxes (or purchased donation slips allowing entrances) that would fund worthy causes – or you just give the books away.
Now this would have to be done carefully as some books may, say, be age-inappropriate and there may be local legal issues. But careful checking and thought would make this relatively easy to handle.
Such an event would:
- Promote literacy. Always good.
- Promote awareness of banned books and censorship. Also important – and indeed something I feel we geeks should pay more attention to as awareness fits our “cultural portfolio.”
- Get people to read books – some banned or controversial books are often damned good (it seems that makes them more controversial).
- Would act as good publicity – properly handled. Poorly handled it could be a mess, of course, but I trust you.
I wouldn’t be surprised if other conventions have done this, but I haven’t heard of it before. So I promote this as an idea.
But I’m not done yet . . .
TAKING THIS FARTHER
See, this is just the basic idea. The more I think of it, the more I think there’s other things we could try.
- Many conventions, such as anime cons, draw on media from other countries. There could also be a focus on controversial literature from source countries. That’d be extra educational. Speaking of . .
- . . . an event like this could be paired with discussion of the relevant literature or literature relevant to the convention theme. That would be educational.
- Discussions or panels about censorship and laws, especially in history and perhaps other counties would be interesting. This could also be useful in areas, like video games.
- This could easily go beyond books with things like games, movies, films, and so on. Even banned nonfiction is relevant.
- Some conventions, those focused heavily on media producers, could also pair this with panels on dealing with laws and censorship, becoming very educational.
- Entire sub-conventions or conventions could spring up around the idea of dealing with censored and controversial works. Just noting.
- Conventions doing this could partner with existing organizations as appropriate.
- Go crazy with cosplay of infamous characters, etc. That might be too silly – or pretty neat.
There’s many ways to take this.
So, just an idea that struck me for we geek citizens to consider. It fits what we do, our love of media, and we’ve got a social structure to do it within.
– Steven Savage