Dear Sir, I Intend To Burn Your Book
|Author||Hill & Bishop|
"Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book." Last June, I received an astonishing email from a man in The Netherlands who began with "Dear Sir Lawrence Hill" but who went on to say that he did not accept the title The Book of Negroes and would therefore burn my novel in a public park in Amsterdam. The astonishing array of events that led him to live up to his promise-while Dutch TV cameras rolled-made me think more broadly about all the different ways that books have elicited paranoid and violent responses over the years. The 17th century Italian scientist Galileo was jailed for the rest of his life and saw his writings banned because he dared to suggest that the Earth was not the centre of the universe. Perhaps it is tempting to assume that it was only in other lands and centuries that arguments were shut down, books banned, and authors imprisoned or executed for publishing their ideas. But the fear of ideas, and of the free expression of imagination and argument, continues to define modern approaches to literature. In recent years, I have seen Three Wishes by the award-winning Canadian author Deborah Ellis pulled from school shelves because it allowed Israeli and Palestinian children to speak about what it was like to live in a war zone, and the American writer Joyce Carol Oates' novel Foxfire yanked from study in an Ontario school because it contained profanities. Who is leading the charge to ban, censor, or control the distribution of books? Is it working? What price do we pay for these efforts? And where do we go from here?
Threat of book burning ignites passionate discussion about censoring, banning, and other responses to books.