Banned Books Week 2009, Or…Dang Right, I Read It.

Banned Books Week 2009 started on September 26 and runs through October 3. Whoo-hooo! One of my favorite times of year!

I love reading the American Library Association’s list of Books Challenged & Banned in the last year. I make my “to read” list off of it.

My high school English teachers weren’t stupid – they knew exactly how to get a kid like me to read. All they had to say to get me diving in was, “This book has been banned in other schools.” Or “You must get your parents’ permission before reading this.”

Or “We will only be reading this in class, because you are not allowed to read Chapters 2, 4, 5, 7, 15, or 20,” which was, in fact, the only reason I ever read all of Grendel (which made this year’s Challenge list, by the way).

(Maybe if Mrs. E had told me that Lorna Doone was ever banned, I wouldn’t have caught those pages on fire in class in 7th grade. I still feel bad about that, but at least I do remember one line from the book – something like “Constant dripping will wear away the strongest stone.” Wish she’d remembered that line, too, and had a little sympathy LOL)

So…after going through this year’s list, I’ve made a list of challenged or banned books I have already read. Here they are…..

Already Read

  • G0 Ask Alice (Anonymous) – Challenged for language, sexual content, and blasphemy – I mean come on, do you really want to challenge a book real enough to scare your kids off drugs? Assuming they aren’t already on them, attempting to escape your stifling unreality, that is….
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story (Berendt, John) – Banned for 4 Days as pornographic, at odds with student handbook – Okay, I just read this recently, thanks to Beki, and loved it. In this case, parents requested its banning after their high school kids brought it home from an ACCELERATED READING program. LOLOLOLOLOL
  • Black Hawk Down (Bowden, Mark) – Removed from high school classroom for cursing – I don’t even have anything to say about that.
  • The Joy of Sex (Comfort, Alex) – Restricted access for minors at public library – I’m really okay with that, actually. Any librarian who lets my 12-year old check out a sex manual is going to get a little wrath. There’s a proper place to learn that stuff, and that is from his peers.
  • Pillars of the Earth (Follet, Ken) – Removed from high school reading list for rape scene, explicit sex – Come on, you know Oprah won’t steer your kids wrong. It was beautiful and haunting. There was ugliness in it, but the way people overcame the ugliness was a testament to the human spirit and the power of God. Kinda like real life…
  • Grendel (Gardner, John C.) – Retained after challenge for torture and mutilation scenes – see above for my experience. Also, allow me to plug Neil Gaimon (thanks Brooks and Brad for introducing me) right here – if you haven’t read any of his stuff, you’ve really deprived yourself.
  • The Kite Runner (Hosseini, Khalad) – Challenged in lots of places for violence and sexual content – I cried when I read this. And thanked God for my circumstances.
  • Brave New World (Huxley, Aldous) – Retained after challenge for references to sex and drug use – Not in a positive way, you idiot who challenged it! Did you even read the whole thing? Highly formative book for me as required reading in 12th grade AP English. I even wrote a poem about it. Of course – if you want your children to be little brainless robots, I guess you wouldn’t want them reading something saying being a little brainless robot is bad.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee, Harper) – Retained in NJ after (this is a little weird) a resident objected because black children would be upset about how black people were treated by racist whites in Alabama – A nice sentiment, but I think maybe the point of the book was to upset people (black and white) so they would fight against the injustice and horror of racism. Today it helps us make sure it will never happen again.
  • The Bluest Eye (Morrison, Toni) – Retained in high school after challenge for sex and language – I learned a lot from Toni Morrison.
  • Catcher in the Rye (Salinger, J.D.) – Challenged in high school – But when has it not been?
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain, Mark) – Retained in CT high school “with the requirement that teachers attend seminars on how to deal with issues of race before teaching the book in their classroom” – Not a bad idea, actually.
  • The Color Purple (Walker, Alice) – Challenged in Burke County NC schools- Very raw, I admit, but powerful.
  • A People’s History of the United States (Zinn, Howard) – Challenged in Va AP history class for “un-American, leftist propaganda” – The deal here is that it was not the primary textbook and it was taught along with an article that criticized it. That sounds like a critical thinking exercise to me, a skill which that parent has obviously never mastered.

Later this week, I’ll post on those I plan to read in the next year, along with an argument that banning books is un-American, leftist propaganda.


~ by gypsyjonga on September 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “Banned Books Week 2009, Or…Dang Right, I Read It.”

  1. You burning Lorna Doone in class remains one of my favorite school memories.

    I was always amazed at the challenges I got from parents. Last year a parent confronted me over Things Fall Apart and a Sylvia Plath poem (apparently, I was encouraging suicide). I asked her what she would suggest in their place. She held up the enormous World Literature textbook and said, “I’ve looked through this entire text book, and I can’t find anything I would want my child to read.”

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