Over the centuries, various forms of expression have been banned or destroyed, and their creators have been censored, imprisoned, tortured, killed, exiled. It is the mission and responsibility of libraries to present multifarious viewpoints, and this is why the American Library Association joins other organizations to support Banned Books Week. “We all know nations that can be identified by the flight of writers from their shores. These are regimes whose fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble...Therefore, the historical suppression of writers is the earliest harbinger of the steady peeling away of additional rights and liberties that will follow.” Burn This Book—Toni Morrison
Censored books fall into four subject areas: political, religious, sexual, and social. This book traces the censorship histories of 120 books from around the world, providing summaries of the books and reasons for them being censored.
Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most famous and infamous internationally known artists. On April 3, 2011, as he was about to fly out of Beijing's Capital Airport, he states, " ...a swarm of plainclothes police descended on me, and for the next eighty-one days I disappeared into a black hole." The title of the book is part of a poem written by his father, Ai Qing, who was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution in China. This book is a memoir about his father, himself, his country, and the necessity for freedom of expression everywhere in the world.
For his outspoken criticism of modern China, contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei was followed, beaten, put in prison, and finally was able to leave his homeland and now lives in Berlin.
Oscar Wilde was sentenced to hard labor in prison for "gross indecency" with other men, aka homosexual acts, but jail did not prevent Wilde from writing.
A notable group of journalists were interviewed for their experiences in reporting from China, from the civil war in 1940 to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Journalists detail the challenges of covering a complex and secretive society and offer insight into eight decades of tumultuous political, economic, and social change."
In 2006 Shafak was tried and acquitted for “insulting Turkishness” because one of the characters in this novel refers to the massacre of Armenians, during World War I, as genocide. Shafak no longer lives in Turkey and has stated that, “Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.”
A study that examines the arguments of those who challenge certain books being allowed in libraries. Knox writes, "…the practices of censorship demonstrate the relationship between knowledge and power." She is a former professional librarian who interviewed challengers because she had a keen interest in their arguments. Knox and the challengers are in agreement about one idea, "…reading is powerful. Books change lives."
A compelling history of how written knowledge has been collected and maintained in libraries, going back millennia, and the destructive forces that have tried to subvert, censor or destroy those materials.
The title of a series of books, published yearly, that documents, “News that didn’t make the news—and why. The top censored stories and media analysis. Press freedoms on a ‘post-truth’ world."
Carlo Levi was an Italian artist, writer and doctor, and an anti-fascist before and during World War II. He was charged and sent to internal exile in the small town of Eboli.
Daoud is a journalist whose award-winning novel, The Meursault Investigation, is a modern response to Albert Camus’ The Stranger. For many years he has written for Le quotidien d’Oran. His questioning of traditional Islam and praise of the West brought forth condemnation by other journalists, and a fatwa (death threat) by a Salafist Imam.
Among the many “firsts” in the life of Constance Baker Motley, she was the first Black woman appointed as a federal judge and the first Black woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout her life, she fought for equality and justice for all and knew that inequality of any type was a barrier to freedom of expression
Ugresic is originally from Croatia, and is a journalist who has written critically about the most recent Balkan War that tore apart Yugoslavia. For her questioning and criticism, her work has been censored, and she has been continuously threated with violence and death.
Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten who opposed and refused to answer questions before HUAC. He lived in exile but continued to be a ghostwriter for Hollywood. In 1993, he received his long overdue Academy Award for The Brave One, and later a posthumous Academy Award for Roman Holiday, 1953.
When freedom of speech is restricted, then freedom of thought and freedom of expression are in peril, which includes the written word. Historian Eric Berkowitz examines the history of censoring speech and how it has impacted people’s lives over the centuries.
Lutheran pastor and theologian who was imprisoned for two years and executed by the Nazis for his role in the plot to kill Hitler.
In 1955, during the Cold War, Katharine Clark was a foreign correspondent for the International News Service in Eastern Europe. While in Yugoslavia, she met Milovan Djilas, who had been a high-ranking Communist Party official but was relieved of his post for having criticized the government. Katharine Clark smuggled out a series of detailed, critical articles written by him.
The third volume in the Ottoman Quartet series which continues with an array of characters set against the Ottoman Empire prior to World War I. Written by Ahmet Altan while he was in a Turkish prison for alleged involvement in a failed coup.
Elijah Lovejoy was a Presbyterian minister, newspaper editor, and temperance crusader. Prior to the Civil War he became a staunch abolitionist, and as the owner of two newspapers his offices and printing presses were vandalized. While guarding a new press in a warehouse he was killed by an angry mob.
Veteran reporter Brian J. Karem examines the challenges facing journalists (in print, television and social media) in how to provide clear information about what takes place in government. He offers workable solutions to how this can be accomplished.
Baptist minister, civil rights and nonviolent activist, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for unlawful political protests against racial segregation. On April 16, 1963, he wrote an open letter to the world, stating there is a moral obligation to break unjust laws, in nonviolent ways, instead of waiting forever for justice to come through the legal system.
In 1937 Picasso created a huge mural painting (11’ 5” by 25’ 6”) in shades of gray, black and white to protest the Nazi German and Italian bombings of Guernica, a village in Basque Spain. The painting was a political and humanitarian protest, and its journey to different countries became a protest in itself. There are two reputed comments made by Picasso, one in response to being shown a photograph of the painting by a German officer, who said, “Did you do that?” Picasso responded, “No, you did.” In response to being asked about his political views, Picasso pointed to the large mural.
In 1945, fighting in East Prussia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was arrested and sentenced to prison for anti-Soviet propaganda for criticising Stalin’s war plans and the need for a new regime. He spent 8 eight years in prisons and labor camps, but continued to write.
Bernard Gordon was a blacklisted writer/producer who moved to Europe, but continued to be a ghostwriter for many major motion pictures made in Hollywood.
Maria Ressa worked as a journalist in the United States and the Philippines. She was co-founder of Rappler, an online news website. The dictatorial regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte charged her with cyber-libel and arrested her. Her memoir is hopeful, yet she cautions that globally, we are all at risk if freedom of the press is threatened.
With Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov, she shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."
Learn the story of the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever, who risked her life to fight for the rights of girls in Pakistan to attend school. Malala was a young girl who would not be denied an education, despite being threatened by the Taliban, who shot her in the head. She lives in exile and continues to speak out for justice and human rights. In 2014, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kirk Douglas provides the tumultuous backstory to the making of the film Spartacus, begun during the Hollywood blacklist. The film was based on the work of two writers, Howard Fast and Dalton Trumbo, who were jailed for refusing to testify before HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee).
Turkish journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan was sentenced to life in prison, accused of having helped plot a 2016 coup d'état in Turkey. Altan recognizes his physical life of freedom is over, but the life of his mind is free, and that is what he writes about.
Since 2000 over 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico. This collection of essays are by journalists, scholars, political cartoonists and others who examine if it is possible to have true freedom of the press and freedom of speech in a country that has been dominated by political terrorism and drug cartels. Fear of violence and death has created self-censorship by many writers and artists.
Censorship can take place anywhere and from anyone. In the 1980s, the Press-Enterprise, a hometown newspaper in Riverside, California, took two cases to the U.S. Supreme Court. The demand was that all court proceedings be open to the public and the press. Their successes have made it possible for, “...the public to witness jury selection and preliminary hearings.”
In recent years, the news media has been attacked for providing inaccurate information. In addition, there has been a diminishing number of local newspapers, often due to the economic needs of corporate owners. Independent newspapers are a source of unrestricted examination of local issues. "When authoritarians subvert democracy, the first thing they do is kill the messenger of free-flowing information." Ken Tingley was the editor of The Post-Star in Glens Falls, New York, from 1999 to 2020.
The Nobel Peace Prize, 2018. This prize was shared with Dr. Denis Mukwege, "for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict." Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi community who lived in Kocho, northern Iraq. She and her family lived a peaceful rural life with other families until their village was caught in the crosshairs of ISIS in 2014. People were killed and Nadia was abducted, beaten, tortured, repeatedly raped, and became part of the ISIS slave trade. She escaped and this is her story. Even though she is free, ISIS has continued to issue death threats because Nadia continues to speak out.
Czech dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel was sentenced to three years in prison for political dissent and human rights activities. He was permitted to write one letter a week to his wife. He later became President of Czechoslovakia, and of the Czech Republic.
Ahmet Altan is a journalist and novelist who has been sentenced to life in prison in Turkey. This is volume 1 of his Ottoman Quartet, a series of novels about the last fifty years of the Ottoman Empire.
In 2006 while visiting her mother in Tehran, Iran, the American Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Middle East Program, Haleh Esfandiari was suddenly imprisoned and interrogated for nearly eight months. For part of that time she was in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison where focus, self-discipline and determination were attributes that sustained her through a living nightmare in a country that once had been her home.
Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese writer (2008-2017), literary critic and human rights activist, who was tried and imprisoned. In 2010 he was awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
Isaac Bashevis Singer was well known for his novels, but this collection of his essays examines many subjects, including an essay, "Why Literary Censorship is Harmful." In another essay, "The Ten Commandments and Modern Critics," Singer cheekily speculates how Moses would be received today if he issued his commandments in a booklet or brochure. The 1978 Prize in Literature was awarded to him "for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life."
Originally from Uruguay, Eduardo Galeano was a journalist during the 1960s, writing about politics and culture. Following a military coup In 1973 he went to Argentina, and three years later fled to Spain because of Argentina’s repressive military dictatorship which confiscated and censored his writing. In Spain he wrote this book, which was censored in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
Arrested in 1962 for anti-apartheid activities in South Africa, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. He was the first democratically elected president of South Africa, 1994-1999, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
During the 1970s Argentina was run by a right-wing military regime. Newspaper publisher Jacobo Timerman documents his arrest, torture, and jailing.
Literature plays a major role in freedom of expression. Azar Nafisi, professor, and writer, presents her thoughts in a series of letters to her late father, who was the Mayor of Tehran. In examining the books of selected writers, she urges us to examine the motivations of those who stand in the way of freedom of expression. At the same time, she cautions us not to replicate the behavior of those who seek to suppress this precious freedom.
The books of renowned Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany have been translated into 30 languages and published in more than 100 countries all over the world. However, his books have been banned in Egypt and a great many places in the Arab world. This novel is a satiric look at a modern repressive government that is thrown into turmoil when a revolution takes place.
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie was published in 1988. The title refers to a group of verses in the Quran about three pagan Mecca goddesses. At the time, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa that ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie, and Rushdie went into hiding and was under constant protection. In August, 2022, while at a public reading, he was attacked with a knife.
Starting an independent bookstore is no easy task, but doing so in modern Egypt had more than the usual obstacles, especially one opened by three women who had no business degrees or business plans but had a lot of moxie and drive. This all began in 2002, and business is thriving. As told by the chief instigator, Nadia Wassef, this book sparkles with vitality, humor, candor, and joy.
Since it was first published in Egypt in 1959, Naguib Mahfouz's novel <em>Children of the Alley</em> has been controversial: banned; allowed to be sold; sold under the counter; pirated; illegally reprinted, and the author’s life was threatened. This book examines that history and opens “... a window onto some of the fiercest debates around culture and religion to have taken place in Egyptian society over the past half-century.”
2022 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of this novel by James Joyce. Since its first publication it has been burned and banned. All of this was based on charges of obscenity.
Iranian lawyer, judge and human rights activist, was threatened, jailed, and suspended from practicing law. In exile from Iran, Shirin Ebadi lives in the United Kingdom, and in 2003 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She continues to openly criticize injustice in Iran and elsewhere.
The plot and characters are based upon a fictional translation of an epic Sanskrit work. Pampa Kampana is blessed/cursed to live for 247 years. Her super powers enable her to create the Bishnaga Empire, which is a proto-feminist construct, and to interact with all manner of people over the decades, but the complexity of her court and her life are counter-productive. In 2022, at a public presentation, Rushdie was stabbed by an attacker. In 1989, a fatwa calling for his assassination was issued after the publication of his novel, The Satanic Verses.
This is the biography of a woman who was a librarian. The majority of Ruth Rappaport’s career was at the Library of Congress where she was a cataloger, delving into pornography collections that had been seized by the FBI. Her early life well prepared her for what a life under a repressive regime could be like. She escaped from her birth place, Leipzig, Germany, in 1938.
World-renowned writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o was jailed in Kenya’s Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and recounts what it was like to write a novel while under 24-hour watch.