This is National Banned Books week, an event I celebrate with mixed emotions. Just as I don't like strangers telling me what I can and can't eat, I don't want others telling me what I can and can't read.
I grew up in a time when movies were banned, but very few books. Students were given lists of recommended reading and expected to choose wisely for their book report. Helicopter parents were unheard of and the National Security Agency did not govern our lives. And we proudly said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag without stumbling over the words. Those were the forties.
Our children grew up in the sixties. A time of unrest. A time of change. A time when freedom of speech became a line drawn in the sand and newspaper reporters went to prison rather than reveal their sources, guaranteeing intellectual freedom, and opening doors for writers like me.
When did those doors start slamming? Why have we closed our eyes and ears to what's happening?
A used bookstore in Tucson has a permanent display of banned books, and provides handouts supporting intellectual freedom, the readers' right to decide what to read. Their display certainly opened mine. Books I'd read were now on the banned list, making me pause and causing me to wonder about those books.
Why should Little Black Sambo and Huckleberry Finn have to be rewritten? Those books were written about how things were at that time, good or bad. Let the reader decide.
Should A Tale of Two Cities be rewritten to omit the violent deaths at the guillotine Dickens describes in gory detail? The unsanitary conditions of London's streets? That's like the outspoken few trying to claim the holocaust never happened. It did.
Future generations must be allowed to read about times past and make up their own minds.
Intellectual freedom, that's what it's called, and what everyone needs, along with freedom of speech.
In the early sixties the latest best seller -- its title slips my mind -- was all my friends talked about so, anxious to read the book, I put in a request for it at the bookmobile. It eventually made its way into my hands and I couldn't wait to get it home and find out what all the excitement was about. To my surprise and disgust, every other word on the page was a curse word. Five pages into the book I closed the cover and returned that best seller to the bookmobile.
I censored the book, not some outspoken do-gooder telling me what to read.
In a letter to 28 newspapers, signed by Ed Morrow, president American Booksellers Assn. and Harry Hoffman, president, Walden Book Co., Inc in 1990 wrote: "Censorship cannot eliminate evil. It can only kill freedom. We believe Americans have the right to buy, stores have the right to sell, authors have the right to write and publishers have the right to publish Constitutionally-protected material. Period."
Except for those books considered a danger for young, impressionable minds to read, stop the censorship. Give us back the freedom to make up their own minds.
That's my opinion about banned books. What's yours?
Life hasn't gotten in my way, summer has. A week spent at a fish camp in Liggett, California, ten days in Tuscany and Rome that turned into three weeks away from home, and a week in the Antelope Valley where every two hours I dropped eye drops into my son-in-law's eye recently freed of cataracts.
Now that I've put my summer down in print I see life did get in the way of my writing, although I did sign contracts with Desert Breeze Publishing for three romance novels to be released in 2012.
I'm home now and hope to stay here a while preparing for the October 15th release of my dark romance Decisive Moments by Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc.
For California residents who seldom leave the state, our overseas trip was a really big deal, but with borrowed luggage and shiny new and at that time unsigned passports, we boarded an El Italia Airlines at the San Francisco Airport, apprehensive, but delighted to be on our way.
We changed planes for Rome in Amsterdam, where we were politely informed we wouldn't be allowed into their country until we signed our passports. In Rome our daughter discovered she'd failed to bring her newest driver's license and asked her father to sign for the rental car although he had no intention of driving in a foreign country.
We loved sharing our daughter's trip to Italy with her. We could never have negotiated the numerous Roundabouts the way she did, dodging Smart Cars and Vespas determined to outrun her. As she shepherded us around lovely walled cities and impressive churches built in the 700's I realized the majority of Americans have no appreciation for anything more than ten years old. Buildings are not torn down in Italy. Past generations pass the old stone residences down to current generations for future generations to live out their lives in.
On the drive from Rome to our Inn near Florence I admired rolling farmland edged by wildflowers, but mistakenly thought the farm houses were all boarded up. I soon realized the boards were shutters covering every window of the two and three story stone structures. Shutters in all shapes and sizes, hung inside and outside windows, allowing filtered light and cooling breezes to enter, but assuring privacy without the expense of drapes, curtains, blinds, or the rods needed to hang them.
I was fascinated by the dense forests of trees growing in neat rows, then realized I was seeing evidence of the deforestation that occurred in the bombing of World War II and the reforestation that followed the war.
I fell in love with the Italians, their cheerfulness, their willingness to help lost tourists, the rhythmic flow of their rapid-fire conversations, the sexy eyes of the teenage boys.
The rolling green hills of Tuscany were just as I'd imagined, but I'd never dreamed the fields of sunflowers would be so startling, their yellow heads facing in one direction like smiling faces bobbing in the gentle breeze.
We were one of the last trains leaving Venice when the train workers walked on a twenty-four hour strike to make their complaints heard, a common occurrence we learned, and all part of a memorable trip.
What I'd like to forget is the way CNN announcers on London TV laughed at this country because our government allowed a few outspoken individuals to threaten to bring all services to a halt instead of increasing the debt limit.
Our country truly lost face abroad over that fiasco.