The thought of a panel of self-righteous individuals or even a couple of parents applying to have a book censored or banned from the public is maddening.

All hail recent Freedom to Read Week, which opened many eyes to the fact there are people who have taken it upon themselves to decide what you shouldn’t read because it offends their own sensibilities.

It almost brings tears to the eyes thinking about the countless books that have been destroyed (burned) in the past due to their subject matter. Even today, many books are challenged or banned by self-proclaimed censors who frown upon anything they deem as inappropriate for publication.

For example, Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale has been challenged by many parents for its violence, language and sexual content, in addition to the claim that it is anti-Christian.

In 2021 a decision was made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises that six of its well-known children’s books would no longer be published due to “hurtful” content. A Dr. Seuss book hurtful? Reasons given included perceived negative stereotyping of certain people. And that’s just for starters.

When the news broke out about these books, Value Village jumped on the bandwagon by charging exorbitant sums for them. On Ebay, copies were selling for hundreds of dollars, but even that marketplace began its own censorship by prohibiting sellers from listing the six books. 

Many argue that the questionable content in these delightful reads is nothing to get one’s knickers in a twist after all these years.

While censorship is an affront to our freedom to read, here’s a challenging debate: Infamous serial killer Robert Pickton (aka the pig farmer) wrote a controversial book in prison after being convicted in 2007 of murdering several women. (If you can believe it, he is now eligible for day parole.)

Somehow Pickton managed to get his manuscript out of prison and into the hands of a small publisher who printed the book that was basically a defence “in his own words.” Amazon began selling the book but soon took it off its website after an outcry from the public, mainly the family members of Pickton’s victims. The provincial government chimed in, saying it was a travesty of justice since the killer should never have been allowed to publish the book. Which brings us to the debate: Should the book be allowed for public consumption? Is this type of censorship justified? 

Libraries across North America have some very nasty, gnarly and ultra violent books on their shelves that people can borrow any day of the week. Even children have access to these literary atrocities, yet they won’t be able to find any new copies of Dr. Seuss’s famous six tales. 

Meanwhile, rappers continue to spew out the foulest lyrics imaginable, some of it extremely misogynistic. Should that be censored? What a great debate that would be.

Lyonel Doherty, editor