Don’t like that book? Don’t read it. We’re all free to read. Free to not read. Free to grow.

February acknowledges Freedom to Read week because weirdly, despite the fact it is 2023 and one might think we are making some kind of progress out of the Dark Ages and into a more enlightened time, it seems that we still need to assert our right to intellectual freedom. That means that everyone has the right to decide what they want to read, watch or listen to, and everyone is free not to read something they object to, but not to prevent others from reading it.

Books that make people uncomfortable have been attacked and attempted to be banned from circulation, schools, libraries or availability, since early times, and one of the wonderful things about libraries is their commitment to all of our intellectual freedom.

I have read things that made me uncomfortable because they stretched me beyond the limits of my understanding. I read Gender Queer, the graphic novel, and was tripped up a bit by my life experience and narrow lens on the world and the body and my general primness around anything vaguely erotic. I was super grateful for the ability to feel a bit uncomfortable about gender fluidity and someone’s vulnerability sharing personal feelings, in private, and to expand my imagination and compassion, through the book, so when I come into contact with someone whose lived experience differs from mine, I won’t be as harmful, through my ignorance and biases, as I possibly would have been before. The book gave me insight. That’s what a brave author offered. Like a video game hack that shows you how to level up and get more hearts.

Books are such a safe place to get stretched. So that we can keep stretching towards kindness and towards treating others with dignity.

That is a weirdly threatening thing for some people. And I try to stretch my compassion and kindness towards them, too. While holding a firm line. In favour of intellectual freedom.

I am in love with the question, “what do I want to strengthen?” these days. It helps me find me feet when I’m getting caught in a dumpy surf and knocked around. I want to strengthen my ability to honour the sacredness of all human beings. Books about people I would think of as “Other” really help me to do that… and expand from a Us vs Them kind of thinking to an “all of us” thinking.

So here’s to your freedom to read. And to mine. May we expand our imaginations in such ways that we are more hospitable towards each other, and towards lived experiences that differ from our own. Thank you, librarians, for being such champions of our potential.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s