Welcome to the AAS Celebration of Banned Books Week!
Every day this week, we will be bringing news of book banning from across the divisions and around the world. This year, we are focused on stories. Banning Books Silences Stories, and our community has more than a few stories of censorship, either from a home country, a place we’ve lived, or from family and friends.
Each day, we will focus on a theme of banning with the stories that accompany that theme. Please feel welcome to share these stories. Each story we hear of a banned book helps us to appreciate the freedom we have to read, both as international citizens and as members of the AAS community. Our school is fortunate to have a robust library, full of books for a diverse school community, typically away from the claws of politics. Take a moment today to appreciate your right to your personal story, and your ability to see it in literature and on film, and feel free to share this message with anyone you choose.
Today, the topic at hand is widespread banning from countries, typically as a result of political or religious reasons.
At least three of our teachers in the high school have faced difficulty with textbooks in particular countries. In two situations, passages were blacked out or redacted because of the politics of the region. In one more situation, all textbooks with the word “thinking” in the title were never received, having been stopped in customs and vanished by agents there.
One librarian (a friend of Ms. Kris) has trouble importing books into Saudi Arabia; each of his boxes is searched and if one of the books has any indication of alcohol, drugs, or pork, among other troublesome topics, the entire box is sent back. If AAS was in Saudi, we would have immense trouble receiving boxes.
The idea of a country banning a book has happened through the ages. Books like “Animal Farm,” with government commentary and warning, have been banned in the Soviet Union, China, Saudi Arabia (pigs, right?), and a collection of other governments.
While some governments preempt these books, preventing them from ever entering the country, some governments rely on translation to restrict their topics. Francoist Spain banned several books (“Ferdinand”) and used the translation in Spanish to scrub out the rest of the “offensive content.” You can find censored versions still today in stores.
In Thailand, the film “Mockingjay” was pulled from the theatres after protesters began using the three finger salute in the “Hunger Games” trilogy. Ms. K’s school, sensitive to the government’s wishes, then pulled them from the shelves and the Banned Books display.
In current news, both Kuwait and China are facing backlash for their book banning. It’s becoming dangerous, though. Hong Kong has seen several booksellers go missing under mysterious circumstances after they sold contraband books to Chinese people.
AAS is fortunate to have mail delivered through the diplomatic pouch, which means that even topics sensitive in our home country can be covered in the books that we own and enjoy. You have the freedom to read about many topics that may be out of reach for some others.