Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Banned Books Week!

We are nearing the end of Banned Books Week - September 25 to October 2, 2010! To celebrate, I checked out a few lists of banned/challenged books through the years. First is a list of the top banned/challenged books of this decade. And next, a list of banned/challenged classics.

So, I'm not going to go all crazy and "freedom of expression" on everyone in this post, even though I think banning books is ... dumb. But I will say this: I was really surprised by a lot of the books on those lists. I know that books can be banned or challenged for so many different reasons, and it could even come down to one word in the book, but Charlotte's Web? Bridge to Terabithia? Winnie-the-Pooh??
I'm happy to say that my parents never restricted my reading. I read everything I ever wanted to. I read young adult books that had no literary standing at all, but were just about gossip and sex and nothing. I read classics that changed my life. And guess what: the classics are the ones on the lists, but not the dumb young adult stuff that probably flew so below the radar that no one ever took notice of it.
The books on the banned/challenged lists were definitely the most influential books I've read (Rebecca, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chocolate War, The Kite Runner, The Catcher in the Rye (one of the funniest and best books I've ever read -- over and over) A Prayer for Owen Meany) and I'd go so far as saying they are some of the most influential books of all time. They're not lying when they say that at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.
I feel like that was a list of my favorite books instead of books I've loved that have been challenged.

Take a look at the reasons for the ban/challenge and guess the book. Seriously, try it:

1. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel."

To Kill a Mockingbird! You know, that ol' trashy novel about a girl, her brother and her hero father fighting an ethical fight in a time and place of racial inequality.

2. Removed from the school libraries in Morris, Manitoba (1982) along with two other books because they violate the committee's guidelines covering "excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult."

Catcher in the Rye! Hmmmmm... perhaps I read a different book. Occult? Holden Caulfield would have had something sarcastic to say about that.

3. Challenged at the Owen, NC High School (1981) because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal"

Lord of the Flies! Uh, yes, the "implication" that the challenger understood was ... kind of the point.

4. Well, this one kind of gives it away, but:
Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN (1989) because "Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude:" In addition, "he was very questionable as to his patriotism"

Of Mice and Men! Let me add that a chapter of the KKK of my very own town challenged this book back in '77, and that's about all the endorsement I need to read a book. Thanks for the recommendation!
Latest update was 2007: Retained in the Olathe, KS Ninth grade curriculum (2007) despite a parent calling the novel a “worthless, profanity-riddled book” which is “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”  This really makes me wonder if the people complaining finished the books. Or... you know... if you don't get it, then read the Cliff's Notes. It might explain to you the history of our country, how people behaved, and literary methods of making a point about the need for change.

5. Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

Lord of the Rings! You know, the satanic version.

Quiz is over. How did you do? Now, go read a book!

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