Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Banned Books Week 2023 - Elie Wiesel's Night

As promised, I'm sharing the banned/challenged books we are reading this year for the 1000 Books Project at Gather Together and Read

Today the focus is on why Elie Wiesel's Night has been challenged or banned. First, some information...

One of the key consequences of book banning is erasure. When we decide that some things are too uncomfortable to talk about, we risk losing the memory of how things happen. We lose context, we lose people, we lose the truth.

That seems to be the case according to a recent study by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The New York Times summarizes, “Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. And 52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force.”

Read that second paragraph again. Let it sink in. That is a very high percentage of people who know nothing, but let's ban all the books about it so we can get that up to 100 percent. I knew about the Holocaust when I was as young as elementary school age. My parents did not shield me from it because they understood the importance of knowing and acknowledging what happened. 

In 2017, the Conejo Valley Unified School District adopted an opt-out policy where parents could object to reading materials in the core list. While no books were actually taken off the list, enough parents opted-out their children from reading Night that the teacher could not effectively teach it to the rest of the class.

The other thing to point out in the second paragraph above "52 percent of Americans wrongly think Hitler came to power through force." Night starts out when Elie and his family are still living their daily lives, but we start to see gradual changes in their lives, until finally, the family is separated and Elie and his father are on their way to Auschwitz. Even the Jewish people, their neighbors and friends, ignored the warning signs because, really, what did they have to compare it with. In their minds, they could not fathom it, even when Moche the Beadle warned them. 

Only through history, and learning these subjects, instead of brushing them under the rug, can we understand how easily Hitler accomplished what he set out to accomplish. We cannot turn a blind eye to things going on in the world just because they are difficult to face, or because we think it could never happen. It happened. It could happen again. 

Elie Wiesel said: "We may use words to break the prison." In this video, he explains that he wrote his memoir Night out of a duty to bear witness to his experiences in the Holocaust.

We must keep reading books with subjects of injustice. We must keep reading, and spreading the word about how and why books are challenged or banned. 

A publicly documented case of a censorship attempt...

Front Royal, Virginia: Samuels Public Library

A local pressure group called “Clean Up Samuels” held two book-banning BBQ events ("there will be beer and babysitting") to fill out request for reconsideration forms of materials held at the library. Their efforts focused on children's and young adult materials with representation of the lived experiences of those who are LGBTQIA+. Over 500 forms were completed for nearly 150 unique titles. At county board of supervisor meetings, group members called for the elimination of the library's funding over the availability of And Tango Makes Three, Pride Colors, Prince and Knight, I Love You Because I Love You, Plenty of Hugs, and other LGBTQIA+ titles. In June, the county board of supervisors voted to withhold 75 percent of the budget until the library takes action "to protect our children from sexually explicit material and ensure parents have control over their children's reading choices." The library director resigned in August.

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