Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hand-Selling Banned Books

It’s Banned Book Week at independent booksellers. Can you feel the self-righteousness? Neither Booksense nor the American Booksellers Association for Free Expression (ABFFE) recommends much beyond their politically correct favorites. They declined to advocate meaningfully for books that are actually under attack, like The Satanic Verses, whose author still has a fatwa death sentence hanging over his head. So feel free to recommend Rushdie to your local indy bookseller if they are serious about promoting banned books.

There are plenty of books targeted by state sponsored censorship that we should pay tribute to this week. In addition to Rushdie, books like Oriana Fallaci’s The Force of Reason, or Melanie Phillips’ Londonistan have found themselves in the Jihadi crosshairs. In our own hemisphere, Castro has used his police state apparatus for wholesale round-ups of librarians guilty of thinking for themselves. These thought criminals have been guilty of readers and loaning books like Armando Valladares’ Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag. Want to take a stand for gay rights? Suggest Renaldo Arenas’ Before Night Falls, which exposes the oppressive conditions faced by Cuban gays and lesbians from Castro’s homophobic regime. Unfortunately, many in the book business have turned a blind eye towards Castro’s assault on free expression. Nat Hentoff renounced his ALA Immroth Award for intellectual freedom, when the American Library Association voted down an amendment which would have protested the wholesale arrests of Cuban librarians.

If you want to hand-sell your suggestions to a bookseller, good luck. They should be receptive if they really believe in free expression. However, the Booksense and ABFFE lists clearly do not. They simply reward politically correct titles while ignoring titles literally in the line of fire from Islamic Fascism and Castro thuggery. Independent booksellers ought to start living up to their name.