Apathy toward reading allows disregard of author’s passing

In the United States – a country that praises itself for intellectual freedom — there are still organizations that try to censor great literary works because of so-called controversial material.The week of Sept. 29 will mark the American Library Association’s 26th annual “Banned Books Week” in which the ALA encourages readers to protest this censorship by reading books that have been taken off some shelves.

However, according to a recent Associated Press article, one of every four adults said they did not read a book last year, meaning that the ALA’s fight against unnecessary censorship is also a fight against a growing apathy toward books.

It is perhaps because of this apathy and a fascination with the lives of celebrities that the death of one of America’s greatest authors on Sept. 6 garnered only a passing mention by the media.

That author, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote the classic children’s novel “A Wrinkle in Time,” which is listed as the No. 22 most banned book from 1990-2000 on the ALA Web site and won the 1963 Newbery Medal. This award is given annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, according to the ALA Web site. Incidentally, one copy of the book is available in the Mary Couts Burnett Library’s juvenile collection.

First published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” blends Christian themes with science and fantasy as two children search to find their missing father, a scientist who was working on unravelling the secrets of the “tesseract,” a wrinkle in the fabric of time and space.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is revolutionary, not only because L’Engle is a female writer writing about a female protagonist in a genre typically dominated by men, but also because it is one of the few literary classics that portrays women in a positive light as scientists.

This is especially significant when the time period in which the book was written – a decade prior to the feminist movement of the 1970s – is taken into account.

Although the novel’s overall theme is the power and ability of love to shape the universe, it has consistently been on banned book lists since 1985. Reasons for the ban range from promotion of witchcraft to listing Jesus Christ as one of several religious figures, scientists and philosophers who defend Earth from evil, according to a 2004 USA Today article.

While all Americans enjoy the First Amendment right to express their religious viewpoint, denying an entire community access to an award-winning book infringes on the rights of the members of that community to have equal and open access to literary works. Not to mention the fact that the growing apathy toward reading cannot be countered when significant and interesting books that generate necessary discussion by challenging societal norms are pushed off the shelves.

As one of the most free countries in the world, America should celebrate freethinking authors like Madeleine L’Engle and honor her death by encouraging the widespread reading of her books throughout “Banned Books Week.”

Talia Sampson is a senior news-editorial journalism and international relations major from Moorpark, Calif.