We're smack dab in the middle of Banned Books Week.
Although I didn't plan it (I read books as the library sends them to me), this week I happen to be reading a book that was essentially banned in the US until not long ago--Literature from the Axis of Evil: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations. As is detailed in the book's forward and online here:
"U.S. Treasury Department regulations made it almost impossible for Americans to gain access to writings from 'evil' countries such as Iran and Cuba until recently. Penalties for translating such works or for 'enhancing their value' by editing them included stiff fines and potential jail time for the publisher. With relaxation in 2005 of the Treasury regulations (in response to pressure from the literary and scientific publishing communities that culminated in a lawsuit), it is now possible, for the first time in many years, to read in English works from these disfavored nations."
It's hard for me to believe that this book was not possible until just three years ago, and it makes me wonder at the reasons for keeping it and others like it out of the United States. After all, I think most of us watch the news of the middle east some days--where you see people getting their hands cut off for stealing and women being stoned to death for speaking to a man--and think, "My god--these people are still living in the dark ages! How can we ever find any common ground?"
But then I read things like the first story in this book--about a young boy whose school essay is censored by his school's vice-principal--and remember when I had a very similar problem writing for the school paper in high school. And I realize, although I cannot agree with the more violent elements of the "evil" countries' societies (or of my own, for that matter), there are a lot of people in those parts of the world that are an awful lot like me. Makes it a lot more difficult to support blowing them up.
Of course, it's not necessary to wait for a special week to expand you mind, but it's certainly nice to celebrate the importance of books in doing so. Anyone else reading anything special for Banned Books Week?