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?