There are many special awareness days that take place throughout the year, but Banned Books Week has particular relevance for a publishing house like ours. The week, which runs September 27th through October 3rd, hopes to draw national attention to censorship—both past and present—that results from offensive language, gambling, or language that is considered controversial.
Banned Books Week began in 1982, and according to the American Library Association, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since then. Just last year, 311 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom (although many more allegedly go unreported).
Ironically, some of the most frequently challenged books are the most vivid witnesses to the American experience. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain was challenged in 1885 in Concord, Massachusetts because it was “suitable only for the slums.” Today, the book still garners controversy, but for different reasons. It is often called “racially insensitive,” and “oppressive.” Twain’s novel is a perfect example of how these labels can work both in favor and against a book. "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" gets people talking, and that dialogue is something that every author strives to achieve.
Events for Banned Books Week will be held across the country. In our home state of Maine, Bangor Daily News editorial cartoonist, George Danby, is speaking on Saturday, October 3rd from 7 to 8 pm at the Jesup Library in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Danby, who illustrated "The Essential Danby," is well-versed in the subject, as his cartoons have faced controversy over the past year. In June, during a youth leadership conference, Danby’s son, Nick, asked Governor Paul LePage what he thought of his father’s work. In response, the governor reportedly joked that he would like to shoot the illustrator. His remark made national news. Citizens noted its insensitivity and poor timing given the Charlie Hebdo murders in January and the continuous rise of gun violence in the United States. In response, many people took to social media to voice their support for Danby and his pen.
Regarding why Danby was selected to speak during Banned Books Week, Jesup Library Director Ruth Eveland remarked, “Political cartoons say things that need to be said in a very direct way. Often controversial, and therefore frequently challenged, they are a critical part of our public discourse.”
The political cartoonist’s work has appeared in the Bangor Daily News, Time magazine, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. Over the course of his career he has drawn over 25,000 cartoons, 200 of which made it into his book, "The Essential Danby." You can find the book here.