This weekend is the annual meeting of the American Library Association in San Francisco. The mega-gathering of librarians celebrates the very best in literature. It’s a small price to get onto the exhibit floor where publishers hand over more than equal value in free advanced copies, and is a wonderful opportunity to meet your favorite current authors.
Librarians have long been the gatekeepers of fiction, and I can’t think of them without considering the idea of BANNED BOOKS.
Banned books is a bit of a taboo term recently, as librarians prefer to refer to books as being “challenged” versus outright banned. But one thing that is interesting to note is that not a single Jane Austen title appears anywhere on the ALA extended list of challenged/banned titles.
That is pretty amazing when you consider many books that are considered classics to this day have wound up being banned for being “obscene” or containing “violence” and “vulgar language” and “sexuality” or “immorality.”
The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird – I could go on and on with the list of equally classic books to Austen’s titles that have been challenged.
I am not one for challenging books for the reasons listed above, and this post is not meant to instigate that conversation. Instead, I want to acknowledge how remarkable it is – how remarkable Austen is – for having written book that are not only classics, not only speak to women’s issues of the time, not only are continually enjoyable and popular, not only have spawned spinoffs and movies and any number of pop culture references, but also to have done so in manner that is not offensive to anyone in particular.
I don’t know if the idea of being banned was ever in her periphery when she wrote her stories, but that she should create such accessible material still filled with wit and heart.
I’m sure you did not need another reason to love her, but here it is anyway.