The week of September 29 through October 6, 2007, marks the 26th national Banned Books Week, the American Library Association's annual celebration of the freedom to read. Reflect on your freedom to read, cherish it, celebrate it, and, by all means, read what you want to read -- especially if someone else tries to tell you not to or keep you from doing so. As Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, said, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
The best-selling Harry Potter series ranks as the number one most challenged book series of the 21st Century. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s award-winning And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins parenting an egg from a mixed-sex penguin couple, tops the list of most challenged books last year, declared dangerous by groups like the homophobic Arkansas Family Council that fears such penguin adoptions.
You won't be able to read And Tango Makes Three at the Fayetteville Public Library during Banned Books Week this year. They have only one copy, and it is checked out until October 10th. The book banners might be feeling smug about that. But, unless you want to watch them twitch and froth and howl at the moon, don't let them know that four copies are available in our elementary school libraries.
The know-nothings also would like to ban Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America's First Legal Same-Sex Marriages, a book that describes the efforts of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender activists to secure family and parenting rights and illustrates the happiness of some of the families who have benefited from achieving equality. Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn will be at the University of Arkansas during Banned Books Week to present a lecture titled "Marriage Equality: A 21st Century Civil Rights Struggle" and to discuss their new book that chronicles this latest civil rights battle. The lecture, part of the Hartman Hotz Lectures in Law and Liberal Arts, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 3, in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. Even though it is free and open to the public, a good protest demonstration might help fill the auditorium.