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Banned Books and Martial Law

Banned Books & Martial Law

This year, the world celebrates Banned Books Week from 22 to 28 September. It is an annual event every last week of September that celebrates the freedom to read. It brings the whole book community, librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers, writers, and readers together in shared support of this freedom.

Banned Books

There are books that are unorthodox, controversial, or even ahead of its time. History has shown us how books have influenced leaders and intellectuals. Every era in history and every government have its own set of banned books that some are even relevant or still banned today. Reviewing the course of history, banned books follow the pattern of censorship. And if we look deeper, it stems from fear — fear of educating and empowering the readers to choose or decide.

Martial Law

It was also in September 1972 that Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. That era was marked with censorship, accusations of subversion, curfew, military discipline, and unexplained disappearances.

I’ve heard of these banned books while I was growing up. In fact, they said once caught with these banned reading materials was tantamount to being accused of subversion.

Until now, there is an increase in book censorship complaints around the world. The complaints range from the books’ controversial moral views to the book’s portrayal of sex.

Recent Book Ban

Recently, a school in the United States has banned the Harry Potter books because the magic spells written on the book are true and can summon evil spirits.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1999 and since then the book series has gained popularity among young and old readers alike. It became a best-selling children’s literature. The series also became a successful movie franchise and has a Broadway play spin-off.

I like the Harry Potter books, I owned five of them. But why ban them only now? Sure, there were those who challenged the book series back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s because of its wizardry or witchcraft. But banning them then only fired up the curiosity and publicity of the series.

Banned Books I’ve Read

I myself have read some of the known banned books. Most of them were banned during their heydays and are now accepted and circulating. Here is a list of banned books I’ve read:

Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

Jose Rizal was 29 when he published Noli Me Tangere, a novel written in Spanish that depicts the social life of Filipinos during that time. El Filibusterismo, a much darker novel, is more aggressive it its depiction of the call for change.

Both novels have symbolized the oppression, the double standards of society, the inequalities, and the desire for changes. These books were banned by the Spanish authorities including the Catholic church because it was, for them, were blasphemous and seditious.

Nowadays, these books are read in high school as part of the curriculum. Once you read and analyze the books, it still show the symbolism Rizal used in portraying the cancer of our society which is still prevalent today.

Celso Al. Carunungan’s Satanas sa Lupa (“Satan on Earth”)

The book has a subtitle, “Nobelang Pangkasalukuyan” (“A Present-day Novel”) and was published in 1970. Written in Filipino, the story depicts the character change of a good citizen turned corrupt congressman and his family’s lives.

This novel was banned because it portrayed a First Lady who desired to run for Vice-President. In the early ’70s, it was rumored that Imelda Marcos plans to run as Vice-President of the Philippines. When Martial Law was declared, Carunungan was one of those writers arrested, detained, and accused of subversion.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the remaining copies of the book were released to the market. I was able to get hold of one because it became a required reading in our Philippine Literature class. Then someone borrowed it and never returned.

Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ’70

A short novel if you’re going to base it from its size but it is a good story of a family in the midst of the Martial Law era. Fictional but it portrays the need for social equality and justice. A movie version came in the 2000s but I prefer the book to understand why it was banned.

Aside from Dekada ’70, Bautista also wrote Gapo and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? These three books were challenged to be banned from the public but were critically-acclaimed for its writing.

I knew I have these three books with me somewhere in my bookshelves.

Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos

Published in 1969, it was subsequently banned during Martial Law for obvious reasons. The ban was an outright censorship because no one would like to be exposed of his/her dark secrets.

I’ve read this book during the ’90s when I had the chance to borrow a copy from someone who was pro-Imelda Marcos.

David A. Yallop’s In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I

If my memory serves me right, this book was banned by the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. Published in 1984, it is about the death of Pope John Paul I which details death by poison, some involvement of an Italian mafia, and Opus Dei.

But a few months after the death of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, I saw a copy of this book, at the bottom-most shelf, in a well-known bookstore in Makati. I bought the book because I knew it was a rare find. Unfortunately, the book was borrowed and never returned.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

Published in 2003, this book was banned in some countries after Catholic leaders considered it offensive or blasphemous. Other scholars have written books that refute some of the claims mentioned in the book, although the book is just a work of fiction.

Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ”

I was a student at the University of Santo Tomas when I heard that the film was banned by the Catholic Church in 1988. The film was based on the book of the same title first published in 1955. I may not be able to read the novel but I have a copy of the film.

It was banned because of its portrayal of Jesus Christ — being married to Mary Magdalene, then to Mary, sister of Lazarus, and having children with the latter — which the church considered blasphemous.

Arthur Schnitzler’s Dance of Love

This is the original translation of the German play which was banned in the United States for 50 years. The play portrays the psychology of sex and depicts different relationships — which begins with the prostitute and the soldier and ends with the count and the prostitute.

D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The book was published in 1928 and was banned for its obscenity. It was written in the late ’20s when depicting sex on books was still a taboo. Considered a literary classic for its poetic depiction of eroticism.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Published in 1949 but banned in the Soviet Union in 1950 because Stalin thought that the satire was based on his leadership. The concept of Big Brother and government control is somehow relevant these days that this book is worth reading again.

As a writer, the right to read also encompasses the right to choose. Having books that were banned or challenged doesn’t mean you’re a subversive or a filibuster. Reading books that bring out suppressed issues open the public’s minds. Let not censorship keep us in the dark.

quote on reading

Read and Discover 6 Benefits

If I ask you when was the last time you read a book, chances are you’ll answer last weekend, at the least, or a month or a year ago, at the most. But if I ask you when was the last time you read something online (a tweet or a Facebook update), you’ll probably answer just a few minutes ago. Correct?

In this era of on-screen and mobile technology, we have changed the way we consume information. Teenagers and young adults have glued their eyes to their smartphones. They often read snippets, excerpts, articles (or parts of it),  messages, pieces of information from everywhere. Most of them even prefer videos over text-based content.

It’s sad that even one of the well-known social media influencers admit on her own platform that she doesn’t read much or hates reading. And to think that most of the young people today follow her on that particular social media platform adds to the “problem” of lesser reading.

These days, reading is not much as it used to years ago. But, with new technologies around us, reading a book has become a struggle for some people because:

  • They don’t have much time or they’re too busy
  • They prefer watching TV or films rather than read the novel
  • They find it hard to read or can’t even read

Digital culture has enveloped us more quickly than we ever imagined. We, as adults, are also overwhelmed by this change. And we shrug off the problem. After all, reading trends have changed in the past; television altered our consciousness and social patterns years before we were born. We and our kids survived and became adults. Literature (and reading) will survive, too, somehow.

Too many books, too little time

An article I’ve read a year ago stated that 67% of 2000 British adults said they would like to read more but 48% admitted they’re too busy to read. Work and everyday chores are factors that contribute to less reading.

Even I myself admit that I have still have books gathering dust on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Yet, I try my very best to read before going to sleep. Another trick I found much better is reading on my cellphone. An e-book reading app has a text reader and even animates the turning of the page. I was able to read a few novels on my cellphone which if I would read it using a hard copy would take me much more time to finish.

Then, There’s the TV or Movie Versions

Most films get their materials from books. The Godfather, To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, etc. have become films. Until today, films and TV shows came from bestselling novels. Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, are just some of them.

I admit, there are films and TV shows that I didn’t realize were books at first. But as much as possible, I prefer reading the book first before watching the movie.

Also, psychologists have justified that there are certain types of people who prefer watching than reading. These are the so-called “visuals”. Most of the young people today are “visuals” who would like to see things move before their eyes in order for them to absorb the information fast.

Stop illiteracy

But the much serious problem is that some people find it hard to read because of their inability to read. Until now, issues on illiteracy continues especially among the poor. With the increasing prices on education, the poor can’t afford to send their children to school.

The key to literacy is reading. One has to progress his skills from the ability to recognize letters, to understand spoken words and decode written words, and to the understanding of the text.

Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educated themselves. No, read to live.Gustave Flaubert

Benefits of Reading

If you’re one of the countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out these benefits:

  • Mind stimulation – Recent studies suggest that reading slows the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Like eating right and exercising to maintain physical health, reading strengthens the muscles in your brain and can help you improve skills like memory retention and focus. It also helps sharpen the mind to be more of a critical thinker.
  • Knowledge – Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. Reading broadens our knowledge of the world.
  • Vocabulary expansion – The more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary.
  • Better writing skills – This goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of your vocabulary: Exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on ones’ own writing, as observing the cadence, fluidity, and writing styles of other authors will invariably influence your own work.
  • Reduce stress – No matter how much stress you are going through at work, in your personal life, or anywhere else, reading a good story can help you take your mind off these difficult situations.
  • Entertainment – Reading is also a form of entertainment. We find stories inspiring and sometimes help escape reality and begin to explore other realities.

What can we do?

  • Start them young. Parents should encourage their kids to read starting with age appropriate books. We are a family of book readers. My husband and I grew up reading books. So when my daughter was still a toddler, I started showing her books for her to read and play with.
  • Also, encourage kids to visit libraries and bookstores. With the Internet, it’s easy to get get e-books online. This trend has affected libraries and bookstores. My husband and I still visit bookstores and we tag along our daughter. Now, my daughter tries her hand in writing.
  • Read while waiting. Falling in line and doing nothing? Take this opportunity to read. I bring along my cellphone and read e-books while waiting in the bank, while commuting, or whatever that will put me on hold. That takes away the boredom of waiting.
  • Give away books to read. The idea of sharing books to someone is another way to encourage people to read. Let me take this opportunity to share with you my works for you to read. Not only they’re entertaining, they’re also FREE.
  • Start a reading habit. Try a few suggested tricks on how to develop a writing habit now and up to 21 days. They say that a habit can easily formed within 21 days if done regularly. I read a book before sleeping. I try to read one book a week but I haven’t achieved reading 52 books a year. I have a list of the 100 books and I tick off those that I’ve read so far.

Do you have any other suggestions? What book are you reading today?

crime fiction

6 Good Reasons Why You Should Give Crime Fiction A Chance

There are those people who rarely read crime fiction and have good reasons to do so. But, if they give crime fiction a chance, they will understand why there is such a genre. Here are the reasons why:

1. Non-fiction provides you the facts. The fiction about it provides you the feelings.

Most of us start their research by reading non-fiction accounts of events. But if you want to know eyewitness accounts, better look into the writings of those who were there. Most fiction writers use their experiences and those of others in their writing. They present it with a better picture that stays in your mind much better than a photograph.

2. Crime fiction is as good as social criticism.

Lawlessness and corruption in society has brought about crime fiction. The cynicism is in response to the depression, corruption, brutality, racism, and the double standards in society. Most crime fiction depicts these themes because of its prevalence in society as a form of social commentary.

3. Crime fiction mirrors the social conditions that “cultivates” crime.

This is something related to number 2. But ever since Hollywood began making films from crime novels, the typical story line about catching-the-killer-before-he-kills-again became formulaic. These films don’t show a statement to the society that produced the killer. It’s not as simple as “society made him do it.” Depicting violence shouldn’t be about sensationalizing the gore. It’s about describing the violent consequences that may last for decades. And crime fiction should move people to act upon on this.

4. Crime fiction isn’t about killing, it can also show white-collar crimes.

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime. – Honoré de Balzac

White-collar crimes happen in the corporate world and described in one word: greed. White-collar criminals don’t need to kill.  Many authors have written about it. But sometimes, the only place where corrupt men and women go to jail or get killed is in the pages of our novels.

5. Crime fiction can analyze the life and times of one person.

One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic. – Josef Stalin

Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary crime fiction is escapism. But best crime writers can dramatize the solitary and tragic life of a single character. They make the reader feel the pain, sorrow, loss, and injustice that character had gone through.

6. You’ll discover new and unknown crime fiction writers.

Most of the new, aspiring writers start with crime fiction because the genre is in demand. At the same time, most writers create their first fiction from experience. And if you read more of these writers and their works, the publishers and the reading public might take notice.

I appeal to those who don’t read crime fiction, give the genre a chance and discover our different world.