A Catholic school student who identifies herself by the avatar name “Nekochan” started an unofficial library of banned books that she runs out of her locker at school. She began to lend books to her classmates when her school banned a long list of classic titles, including The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost and Animal Farm.
Concerned about getting in trouble for violating school rules, Nekochan wrote a letter to an online advice column to ask if it was “ok to run an illegal library” from her locker.
Nekochan wrote about the recent book ban: “I was absolutely appalled, because a huge number of the books were classics and others that are my favorites. One of my personal favorites, The Catcher in the Rye, was on the list, so I decided to bring it to school to see if I would really get in trouble. Well… I did but not too much. Then (surprise!) a boy in my English class asked if he could borrow the book because he heard it was very good AND it was banned! This happened a lot and my locker got to overflowing with banned books, so I decided to put the unoccupied locker next to me to a good use. I now have 62 books in that locker, about half of what was on the list.”
I understand the appeal of reading banned books because they are banned. When I was eleven, I bought a banned books poster at a school book fair and proceeded to read each of the titles on the poster, crossing each one out as I went. It still hangs on the wall of my childhood bedroom.
Books are banned for many reasons, but in a lot of cases, such as Nekochan’s, the complaint originates in religion. Amelia T.’s Care2 post discusses the case of a public school that banned books for “contradicting the Bible.” In that case, only one member of the school board had read all of the books under consideration for banishment. Books are often banned by school boards whose only knowledge of the books is a brief, out-of-context quotation.
Nekochan recognizes the risk that she could get in trouble for supplying her classmates with banned books, but she believes that she is in the right. “Before I started [the library], almost no kid at school but myself took an active interest in reading! Now not only are all the kids reading the banned books, but go out of their way to read anything they can get their hands on. So I’m doing a good thing, right?”
I hope that this brave student can keep her contraband library a secret from the authority figures at her school. The thrill of a “secret” library is surely driving her classmates to read the very books that their teachers and parents do not want them to have access to. Her violation of school policy is in the spirit of bigger and better things — literature, freedom and the eternal fight against censorship. Well done, Nekochan.
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