The Power of Banned Books

The son & I were chatting of this and that as we walked into the library mostly missing the old pater who had left the previous week. Grandfather, Grandson & Self: would make a song and dance out of our library trips, and look forward to it with shining eyes. 

The rest of the household indulged us in this pursuit. We traipsed home with seeds for the vegetable garden from the Solarium in the library, we came home with books defying regular ideas, we got on spaceships and shot off to Mars and beyond with our books, we explored magical entrances to worlds in which we could safely explore our problems, we went on philosophical jaunts with ideologies, we set about trying to understand ecosystems, habitats, climate change, economies, neuroscience, cellular biology, systems design whether or not we completely understood, but just because we could and it was fun to do so.

Books became our source of infinity and the three generations were content for days in our different worlds. 

“I wish Thaatha was here to see this. Oh! He would’ve loved to look at this.”, said the son, stopping in front of the spectacular Banned Books exhibit in the library.

For Banned Books Week, the little exhibit showcased famous banned books and the reasons they were questioned in the first place. 

The son, looked at me with huge round eyes and said – “Really! Why would they ban Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, and this cute little book on Penguins just because it has gay penguins?”

I joined him at the exhibit and saw The Handmaid’ s Tale, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web and a score of other loved books in that list. 

I saw the concern in his face. 

“You know? When I see this list, I am grateful we got to read so many of these books, but also makes me think of that little snippet in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

“Which snippet?”

“The one where Hermione Granger is beaming after Umbridge bans Potter’s interview proclaiming the return of Lord Voldemort? She says that if Umbridge could have done one thing to make sure that absolutely everyone in the school read the interview, it was banning it.”

He smiled and we discussed why books are banned in the first place. Are inclusive ideas that frightening? Why do dictators ban books – for the ability to imagine is a dangerous game. What if their oppressed populace imagined life without their tyrannical rule? 

Many authors have faced life threatening situations (most recently Salman Rushdie) for their ideas. Ideas are seeds after all, they can take root and make people imagine a better existence for themselves and where would be then?

“I wish your Thaatha had access to a good public library in India.” I said sadly. It has been a wish and a dream for the country I was born in. 

We harked back to a little town he had designed. In that world,  libraries were prioritized right alongside schools, hospitals, parks, and public transit and I liked it so much. 

I picked up Where the Wilds Things Are – by Maurice Sendak for it seems we needed to read at least one book on that exhibit.

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