Censorship and the Bookstore on the Corner

The little bookstore used to be one of the gathering places in the small village. The front of the bookstore had the current bestsellers and also some books that were worthy but that had not caught the eye of the public. As you walked toward the back of the bookstore, the books got older and more were in paperback. All were carefully vetted by the owner, Pete Turner. All he wanted was high quality literature in his store.

This was before the federal government stepped in and started banning books. There were always sectors of society that banned books. Public schools. Libraries. They usually banned them because they contained sex, violence, profanity. Pete bought books for literary value. That was in the past. Before the federal government, beginning in 2017, sent out squads of soldiers to pull books off the shelf that were on their banned book lists.

It was hypocrisy. The Holy Bible was always on the banned book list. That was the only banned book the soldiers left intact on the shelves.

What the squads of soldiers didn’t know is that Pete kept shelves of banned books hidden in the basement of his bookstore. He had put book jackets on the banned books that were fake. The jackets from other books that were on the government’s approved list.

In 2017, the federal government decided to try to control the American people’s reading material. They were relentless. They went into libraries and schools and stripped the shelves of any book on the list and even some that weren’t. Bookstores were hit especially hard. They even pulled the Harry Potter series off the shelves. It had been on the banned book list off and on and so many children had enjoyed it. Harry Potter was the number one banned book between 2000-2009 according to the information Pete had. After they pulled the books off shelves, they piled them in the street and burned them.

People were afraid to gather in Pete’s bookstore now. His business had dropped by half. He owned his store fair and square. There was no mortgage on it. That was the only way he was staying in business at all. Many bookstores were going out of business.

The people who were in favor of the actions of the federal government with regard to banning books didn’t see the problem. Some thought it was a good thing that these books that talked about issues that made them uneasy and afraid were being burned in  the streets. The others, the ones who thought the federal government was overstepping, brought up the First Amendment and freedom of speech. They said that banning books and burning them in the streets was a violation of the First Amendment. Banning books and burning them in the street was the ultimate in censorship.

Just recently, Pete had learned through his distributors of books, that the federal government had ordered that production be stopped of the books on the banned book list by the book publishers. These publishers were high-profile. Pete had also learned through his contacts that smaller publishers had started producing these banned books under the radar. They were booklegging. Producing banned books illicitly. Otherwise, these wonderful books would be lost forever. Books like “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck; “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain; “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley; and many, many more. If these small publishers were discovered, there would be terrible consequences compliments of the federal government.

Pete’s bookstore had a supply of many of the banned books camouflaged in his basement. He was essentially running a library out of his basement and loaned them to people who wanted to read them. Pete, himself, would suffer consequences if he was discovered. Even though many people now avoided his bookstore, there was a core group of readers that still came in, had coffee and tea, and browsed. They were defiant of the federal government. Pete was so glad to see them. These people recognized censorship for what it was.

Pete had been able to obtain and keep some history books that detailed what had happened in the Fascist regime in Germany. If the soldiers found these books, they would take them and burn them, but Pete tried to keep them available for all his patrons to read. In 1933, Hitler’s regime burned 25,000 books supposedly to remove the Jewish influence from Nazi Germany. Books from scholars such as Freud and Einstein were among these books and some were irreplaceable. Censorship through book burning was a hallmark of the German Fascist regime. Pete wanted history books available for his patrons so they could read about this movement. He was afraid he would be found out. In Germany, booklegging became popular but was shut down.

Pete spent his days as proprietor of his bookstore trying to keep a low profile while encouraging the people of the village to frequent his bookstore. It was a fine line to walk. The squads of soldiers appeared at his door on a regular basis but they found fewer and fewer books to burn. All his banned books were camouflaged and hidden. Pete is noticing that more people in the village, people who are surprising to him, are coming in to have coffee and talk with him. They carefully ask to see his history books and occasionally, the banned books. This gives Pete hope, for his business and for his country.

Pete’s little bookstore in the village remains. The story has no ending yet. Pete and at least some of the people in the village have hope that the First Amendment of their Constitution will be respected in the future and censorship and the issue of banned books will become a thing of the past.

amwriting with The Writing Reader

Leave a Reply