By Katie Ryder
The week of September 30 through October 6 is Banned Books Week: an annual event “celebrating the freedom to read.” In recognition of this week, against censorship, and in support of writers and readers, the Guernica Daily will be publishing interviews with authors whose books have been banned or challenged and essays on works of fiction that have been oft removed from schools, libraries and book stores.
Conveniently, Barack Obama spoke on free speech this week during a (somewhat monumental) address to the United Nations General Assembly. After stating that “Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views”–true words that, painfully, elide many other important truths–he spoke the following:
We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our Founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics, or oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
Bigotry and blasphemy are different things. One is a voice against people; the other assaults the world’s most beloved literary character. But there it is already: “more speech.”
Please check in with us next week for interviews with Alice Walker, Katherine Paterson, and Sherman Alexie, and essays on Mikhail Bulgakov, Toni Morrison, and Henry Miller.
Katie Ryder is the Associate Editor of the Guernica Daily and a freelance writer.
Check out all the pieces in our Banned Books Week series: