It's Banned Books Week! Every year, during the last week in September, the American Library Association celebrates the freedom of all Americans to read whatever they choose. Learn more about it here.
It's hard to believe that in 2011 people are still challenging the basic, fundamental right to freedom of expression. But even here, in liberal Southern California, there has been a challenge to one of the greatest classics of the 20th century.
So to kick off Banned Books Week, I'm featuring that book - In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote.
School officials in the Glendale Unified School District here in Los Angeles consider the book too "chilling" for high schoolers to read. Here's the story.
I read In Cold Blood as a junior in high school, as part of a thesis report I did on Truman Capote. Doing that report began my long love affair with Capote, one of the truly great American authors. And I will admit, the book gave me nightmares, including one particularly vivid one in which I discovered the slain teenage girl in my own bed.
But that is what great literature does. It sucks us in and doesn't let us go, even after we put the book down. It haunts us even when we're asleep. I wouldn't trade those nightmares for anything; they were the hallmark of a great read.
So here's a novel (no pun intended) thought: why not let students decide for themselves what's chilling and what isn't? I would wager that most of those parents challenging the book haven't read it themselves. Why not read along and discuss it with their children?
Every day this week I'm going to feature a frequently-challenged book that I've read and loved. I encourage you to share your banned books stories with me as well. And support Banned Books Week by reading one that you haven't yet!