When I saw this post from Rainbow Rowell asking readers to help defend her book, Eleanor & Park, from censorship, I was surprised. My first reaction was, "Wait, they still do that?" And during Banned Books Week, of all times? Of course this was naive, and once I thought more about it I realized that when I think about banned books, I always frame it historically in my mind. Catcher in the Rye, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, Go Ask Alice—these titles always appear on lists of banned books, and somehow that made it easy for me to dismiss this kind of censorship as a thing of the past.
When I stop to think about it, though, I can remember religious groups being up in arms about Harry Potter because MAGIC, and parents getting riled up about John Green because OMG TEENS AND SEX. I rolled my eyes over the outrage surrounding Twilight because THE OCCULT. Really? We're worried about our kids becoming sparkly vampires? Come on, they're joking, right?
I owe librarians and authors an apology. I haven't been taking them seriously enough in their fight to protect our right to read. I've spent most of my career making books and getting them into the hands of as many readers as possible. Books are my passion. It's more than what I DO, it's who I am. Until today, Banned Books Week for me has been an endcap at a bookstore, a poster at my library, and a hashtag on Twitter. I didn't realize there was anything I could—or should—do about it.
But I can, and you can, too. We can email the National Coalition on Censorship and help them defend Eleanor & Park, and every other book on the list. They have an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. They use testimonials from readers to mount their defense of challenged books. If there's ever been a time to stand up for diversity, and tolerance, and minority voices, it is now. I encourage you to read Rainbow Rowell's post. It opened my eyes and made me realize that I am accountable for my privilege to read.