September 29 – October 6 is Banned Books Week. I love this awareness week, because censorship is a topic that I feel very strongly about. In fact, it is the reason I am no longer blogging through mycoloradoview.com. The person with the oversight of the website felt it was within her “rights” (a ridiculously overused term) to modify contributors’ blog post titles if she felt they were inflammatory or too negative. So she changed my post titled, “Electoral racism: a post hoc analysis designed to guilt people into voting for Obama” to “Electoral racism: a post hoc analysis designed to guilt people into voting.” Not only is “for Obama” in no way inflammatory or negative, it is also necessary to convey the full content of the article and as you other bloggers know, it is very important for SEO. I want my post to pop up with someone searches “guilt voting for Obama.” In addition to the logistical and semantic need to include “for Obama” in the title, I get just a little ticked with someone changes my words that have my name attached to them without asking me if I would rather modify my title or remove the post from the website. I call that censorship. (I could also go into a thousand other issues and theories that I have about why my content was changed while other more extreme content on the blog goes untouched, but I’d rather not return tit for tat.)
Anyway, back to the Banned Books Week discussion… As I said, censorship is a topic that I have always been interested in. As a conservative, I find it VERY disappointing that most (modern) attempts to ban books are perpetrated by conservatives with a desire to prevent negative/obscene/immoral content from touching the precious innocent eyes of their children. In my estimation, many of the rest of the modern attempts to ban books are by liberals who view any vague or direct reference to black people in any manner that could tangentially be construed as racist as completely unacceptable, even if the reference is simply an artifact of a time in which racism was more common and more openly accepted. I’m not condoning racism any more than I’m condoning sexual innuendo, vulgar language, or other “mature” topics (rape, incest, etc.). BUT those things DO exist, and literature is meant to explore and convey the human condition, warts and all. Reading many of those books in high school and discussing them with eager classmates and well-versed teachers was a foundational aspect of my education.
Classic books, in general, are an amazing way to show the world to young adults without even leaving their home town. Many of the books on the most commonly challenged classics list are some of the best books ever written, in my opinion. They are some of the best because they aren’t always pretty, just like real life. They are harsh, dirty, emotional views of humanity. I think we need more books like that today. Too much of the fiction young adults read these days is filled with stupid nonsense about puppy love with vampires and how unacceptably hard high school is and how teenagers can save the world. Those books can be entertaining reads, sure, but they are fluff. Empty shells of stories with no reality, no lessons, no meat. Banned books are the meat of literature. They contain the iron and protein that sustains us for the long haul.
Here are some of my favorite books on the frequently banned books list (and many more than these are well worth the read):
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding [An all-time fave.]
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley [An all-time fave.]
- The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair [I intend to re-read this one very soon.]
- The Awakening, by Kate Chopin [I just re-read this one with a completely different mindset, since I now have a child of my own.]
Some other favorites that didn’t make the Top 100 Novels List, but have been recently banned or challenged:
- A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines [Banned by Louisiana College no less, my husband's alma mater, in 2004.]
- Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card [Challenged after a reading in a middle school class.]
- The Giver, Lois Lowry [Challenged numerous times.]
- Bridge To Terabithia, Katherine Paterson [Made the list of frequently banned in 2000-2009.]
- Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury [Same list as above. This is also my absolute favorite book of all time.]
In honor of Banned Books Week, find a book on one of these lists and give it a read, and when you hear about the censorship of a book in your area, speak up for the freedom to read whatever you want, especially if it is classic literature that enhances a young adult’s view of the world.
Check out my Goodreads list (lower left sidebar) and friend me! I have a passion for books, and I’d love to know what you like to read too. What are your favorite challenged books?