Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week

Skimming through a list of banned classic books this afternoon, I ran across Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, which sent me back to seventh or eighth grade and my first experience with the idea that some books are "bad." I was sitting in the passenger seat of my grandmother's car, riding to Louisville with her to visit one of my cousins. She asked me what kinds of books I liked, and I excitedly told her about The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men, both of which I'd read for school. I was not prepared for the lecture I received from her about John Steinbeck writing "depressing books" and his books and school of thinking turning people into "liberals." (I don't believe I'd heard the word liberal before, and certainly didn't know what it meant.) It was a lot to take in, and I'm sure I just nodded in response to my grandmother at the time. But I went home, and over the next few months, read every single John Steinbeck book I could get my hands on.

It's Banned Books Week and I'm shocked to see many of the books on the above list that have been banned or challenged (some very recently) in this country. A few that I read in high school that stand out the most are Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Two I read for a class, and the other two because I saw them, either at the library or on my mom's bookshelves, and wanted to read them. I love books that take me outside of my comfort zone and make me think, that make me feel a little more in touch with humanity. The more banned books lists I browse, the more I think they should be titled Books Everyone Should Read.

In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I'm adding challenged books to my library queue for the kids. I can't wait to read And Tango Makes Three with the boys, a true story about two male penguins that formed a bond and were given a penguin egg to raise in Central Park Zoo. Thought I'm at a loss as to why anyone would not want kids to reading this story, I have a feeling it means it will be good.

Bonnie's already read many books that have been banned or challenged in the past. I can nearly vouch for her not practicing witchcraft after reading Harry Potter, and she didn't start using the word "ass" because she read James and the Giant Peach. (She got that word from her dad.) Some of the current challenged young adult books (Crank and What My Mother Doesn't Know) do make me cringe a bit when I read the reviews, but when she is a teenager, I assume Bonnie's choices in reading materials will be one of many ways she helps stretch my comfort zone.

I think we need to read one of my favorite banned books, The Lorax, this evening. Anyone else have a favorite banned or challenged book to share?


  1. I have long considered banned book lists to be "recommended reading" lists. One that comes to mind is Philip Pullman's Golden Compass series - I read it a few years ago, when the movie came out and I kept hearing about how controversial and offensive it was. It made me want to read the book and see what all the fuss was about - and it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite stories.

  2. Banned Books?! What is WRONG with people!? The Great Gatsby, Catcher In The Rye, The Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest... sheesh!

    Kids shouldn't be reading anyway. They should all watch Glee and American Idol then tuck right into Jersey Shore...

    SO appalled....


    Swear Word.

    Me xxxx

  3. Jennifer, The Golden Compass is on my daughter's to-read list. I think I will read it along with her!

    Prinny, nine out of ten teens agree with you.,401/

  4. Leanna & Prinny - This could be the percocet talking, but I love you guys! :-P

    I find the idea of banning books ludicrous. I haven't read every book on that list, but the ones I have didn't come across as dangerous material, lol.

    Are there really people in the world that are afraid that reading is going to turn their children into witches or heathens or what-have-you? You don't want kids using imagination - thinking is dangerous!

    Just my two cents - If picking up a book is the worst thing your child does, consider yourself lucky, lol.

    - knut

  5. knut - I love this: "If picking up a book is the worst thing your child does, consider yourself lucky". so funny, and so true!

    Some of the most thought-provoking books I've ever read are on that list including - Beloved, 1984, and The Lord of the Rings. Just I guess that's the point of banning books right? Some people just want kids to obey - flying sphaghetti monster forbid that they actually think!!!

  6. My favorite comment in the ALA's banned books compilation is when someone tried to ban The Diary of Anne Frank because it's a "real downer."

  7. Jude, it's probably best if kids don't ever learn about the holocaust or, well, history in general for the same reason. :)

    Knut, in response to "Are there really people in the world that are afraid that reading is going to turn their children into witches or heathens or what-have-you?" YES, absolutely there are people who are afraid that reading is going to ruin their children. The amount of energy those parents must put into filtering the information their kids see is mind-boggling to me.