I love that something like Banned Book Week exists. Bookish blogs are celebrating in different ways, and I’ll commemorate it with some personal experiences with personal blogs.
As you may or may not know, I’m from The Bahamas, I was born in the capital but quickly moved to a less-populated island up North, which I affiliate a hell lot more with than that of the capital. Since I was 13 I used to spend my summers volunteering and interning at the local library. The head librarian was a true matriarch, she wielded her power like it was a staff of solid gold. She was amazing, stern, kind, non-judgmental, and supremely tough. You have to really, in a place where reading is done but not very common. She had to fight loud ruffians, book thieves, a terribly small budget, disrespectful adults and the ever-present, late returners. Despite all of this, she was my favorite old woman to be around and after I left the island to go to College, I always visited her till sadly, one day she wasn’t there anymore. They say she moved to another country. I’m still sad over it, I never go to say goodbye.
One of my best memories of this library was that I was told to go digging in the attic for some new books to acquisition (I was the only one who could figure out that ancient type writer and often wrote up the library cards for new books). Whilst searching that dust riddled place, sneezing and cursing my luck that the only asthmatic in the building was the one small enough to squeeze through the attic door, I kicked a large box which brought a louder stream of curses. The box was labelled, Banned. I kid you not, they labelled it that. So of course, being 15 and nosy, I opened it and touched every book.
Now these were all books that had been donated, and I never knew my government to ban books, no one in parliament reads that damn much to ban anything (yes I went there). So why then, were these books banned? Did the librarian ban them? But she was so… open. In a country where closed-mindedness is the currency, she was a proverbial liberal. So what was this box doing here?
I found multiple copies of the Kama Sutra, 2 copies of the Satanic Bible (my cointern took an eery affinity to these books, and you must remember, over 75% of the country is Christian and it’s written into our constitution that we are), various lesbian paperbacks (the raunchy 40s/50s kind with the innocent white female and the more masculine white dominatrix looking on in triumph), some gay male books (with pictures. I shoved those fast) and many others. After compiling everything, I realized that the books were predominately (1) sexual and (2) non-Christian.
I find this interesting, because to my knowledge, these books aren’t legally banned in The Bahamas. Rather, I sort of figured that the Librarian knew that the presence of these tomes would cause a ripple of discontent, discomfort and unease among the library-going-population. That, and it could be used as slander to fire her (the job of librarian is a government place) or cut funding to the library. Overall, it made me sad to put the books back in the box. I didn’t take any, I just stared and got really sad.
You see, up to that point I had slowly found myself as a budding liberal, a confused questioning teenager who really needed more information than the local library could give. Those lesbian books really could have come in handy, as raunchy and ethnocentric and ridiculously biased as they were, because at that point the book only had one public tome on homosexuality, and it was a book on how to convert those people. Not much help for me, nope. That box really did something to me, after that I checked the attic often to meet the new additions to the banned box family. After that, I made sure, no one could tell me what to read. I made sure of it.
So I end it here my friends, that was my first experience with the banned books. How did banned books change your life? What did it do for you? I realise this post is extremely personal, and I tend to like to leave my personal life out of the internet, but in good causes such as these, what are we to do but share? I’m putting out a call, a call to something great, share your banned books, how they rocked your world, how they shattered it. Tell me how you stood up and curled your lips to the powers that be, that dared to tell you no. Dared to try and control what we read.