The libraries across the country will be celebrating Banned Books this week. Banned books in America? Really? Well, actually not banned per se. More like challenged but it sounds so much more richer to say a book has been banned. In an effort to promote intellectual freedom, this is one way of getting attention about books, reading and libraries. To be clear, the First Amendment guarantees the right to say, write, believe or read anything without fear of punishment from the government. The list of books here, are widely available and anyone can read them if they choose. Judy Blume, Neil Gaiman and other authors can rest assured, this is still America and no books are truly banned. Just merely challenged. Having said that it's important to keep vigilant on the topic of banned books. It let's those who hold office know that the freedom to read is taken very seriously.
To answer the question why would Little House on the Prairie penned by Laura Ingells Wilder be banned? According to parents in the Lafourche Parish schools, this book is offensive to Indians, in the political correct terms, Native Americans. In the book, which is historically accurate, the main characters describes the Native Americans in an unflattering light. Big deal. Is it so hard to teach children that historically that is how settlers in the west viewed the Native American culture? Thank goodness we are passed that now, right? For the record, this entire series has been given numerous awards, including one named after Ms. Wilder from the American Library Association, for making a positive addition to American Children's Literature.
Ms.Wilder is not alone in the "culturally insensitive" language department. Mark Twain's beloved The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn suffers the same attack for using the word "nigger". The book has even been published in a "friendly" version where the "n" word is removed completely. Any literary purist and historian will say this is not only ignorance at it's best but offensive at it's worst. It is agreed that every person deserves respect, but when making the accusation that the word is deeming in a tome that lifts up the value of friendship between the two boys is illogical to say the least. Leave the text alone, and discuss the book with children in order to give them the proper perspective on the text.
Gone With the Wind is another victim of accusations of racism. Margaret Mitchell's portrayal of black slaves as being simple minded was deemed as offensive in many communities. Again, if readers are to look at the historical context of the book, it falls in line with what the common thought was. History can not be changed but it should be understood in order for a society to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland has always stood out as a classic tale in the fantasy genre. It has also earned the attention of those who wish to protect readers from dangerous books. In the 1900's at Woodsville High School in New Hampshire, the book was thought to have subconscious influences which leads the reader into sexual fantasies. One has to wonder how this community might have reacted to Fifty Shades of Gray had it been printed then? It would have made them blush several shades of pink to be sure.
To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee's tour de force, was banned in Hanover Virginia in 1966. Why? The plot was considered immoral because it dealt with rape. Also through out the story, racism is interwoven.
As a modern feminist writer Virginia Woolf broke many boundaries in her time. It comes as no surprise that one of her books would be challenged or banned. Due to the topics of gender changing and homosexuality, Orlando is definitely on the list of books that some thought should be forbidden.. This book is not one of her better known titles, but it is said that it was a "love" story written to a famous female of Woolf's day. The idea of changing one's gender and to have one women kiss another full on the lips "like a lover" was scandalous. In this day and age, not so shocking.
One for the pages of this can't be true but it is. In 1993, the community of Corona-Norco, California thought it was imperative to ban. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World because it focused too much on negativity. It's too bad that they didn't understand Huxley's true message of how humanity could be controlled if society gave their consent. Great book that could develop into greater discussions.
The Curious Incident of Dog In the Nighttime by Mark Haddon is a wonderful, delightful book that allows the reader to see the world through the eyes of a boy with Autism. In Tennessee, a writer has to beware of using the "F" word one time to many in their work or they may find that their book is not welcomed in their community. One school district in Tennessee did just that citing that while they are sure the students in the school were familiar with the "F" word, it does not mean that the school district should condone the use of vulgar language in literature.
In 1939, Grapes of Wrath literally came under fire in one community and banned in another due to it's offensive language. In East St. Louis, Illinois, the public library of this community burned the work by Steinbeck. Yes, burned. As in, light a match, toss the book in a bin and drop the match in the bin. The irrational behavior does not get rid of the book entirely. More copies can and were printed. Readers today still enjoy the book. In Buffalo New York, the public library there banned the books. It is reassuring to know that the book is still available for the citizens of Buffalo.
Last, but certainly not least Sid Sheldon's book, The Giving Tree came under criticism. This is due to the fact that the two main characters of the book, boy and tree, have an questionable relationship. Tree gives everything it has to the boy and the boy seems to never have enough and nothing to give to the tree. In 1988 it was banned in a public library in Colorado because it was considered "sexist". Well if that didn't work, it has been challenged in some public school libraries for criminalizing the forestry industry. Seriously, some adult look too deeply into a book to try to find something that's not there.
Ten books that may make readers to pause, scratch their heads and say this is nuts. Books may be challenged, they can even be banned but in the end, they will always find a way into someone's hands who will appreciate a good story. Do something daring today, go out and read a dangerous book. As a matter of fact, share it with someone you love.