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It’s Banned Books Week

October 1, 2008

So what are you going to do?

Well, you should probably read a banned book.  I, on the other hand, didn’t realize it was Banned Books Week already and have a giant pile of stuff that needs to be read RIGHT NOW because the library’s going to want them back soon and I hate returning books unread.

On the other hand, I’ve read a lot of banned books in my time.  Mainly in high school.  I have pretty much just the one friend left over from high school, Rob.  Good guy, Rob, and fortunately for us we remember completely different things, so between the two of us, we can still pretty much remember everything that happened those fifteen years ago when we met.  He sent me this link to a Time article that mentions some of the most popular banned books and we realized that we’d read quite a few of them in high school.  Well, good on you, Cherokee High School!  Not only did you have an interesting English program set-up (four years of straight-up English; or two (or three) years of straight-up English with two years (or one) of semesterized electives like Shakespeare, Mass Media, Mythology, Drama, Science Fiction, Creative Writing, etc.; or, if you were a big dork like me, four years of straight-up English AND four semesterized electives, woot!), but you made sure we read The Good Stuff.  You didn’t treat us like children.  I remember that the honors class read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth–yeah, that’s right!  A DECADE AND A HALF before it became all famous.  (I wasn’t in Honors Anything because I hated doing homework, but it was fine with me because I’d already read the book years before that.  It had been recommended by a teacher who wanted to keep challenging me.  I loved her so.  Bless you, Ann Diana, if you ever come across this blog.)

My own views on censorship are…fluid.  Some days I think “Everyone should have access to everything, ever!” and other days I think, “I don’t even want my daughter to watch the 4th season of Buffy yet.”  But I guess the important word here is “yet.”  It’s not that I want to cover my daughter’s eyes FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.  And I of course see a huge difference between my eleven-year-old and a sixteen- or seventeen- or eighteen-year-old in high school.  As far as I’m concerned (in my limited perspective, having only the eleven-year-old), they aren’t kids anymore.  They’re not legal adults, and yeah, their identities are still pretty much being formed, but I think that’s exactly the right time to get them thinking.  It’s okay if they read books that have *gasp* sex and violence in them because–okay, frankly?  They’ve seen worse in commercials on the television–but also because they deserve the right to make these decisions.

The number of banned books I’ve read since high school?  Not as much.  Oh, well, maybe in my lit classes I’ve read a book that was banned here or there, but on my own?  The Harry Potter series, and that’s not saying much.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, about a year after graduation.  But without the incentive of grades, I turned quickly to reading mostly romance novels.  Arguably as “wicked” as some banned books are proclaimed, but without any real food for thought.

Okay, in honor of Banned Books Week and Cherokee High School, here are a couple of recommendations for those who had a less progressive administration:

Lord of the Flies.  Banned primarily because people don’t like to think that kids, without instruction or discipline or love, could be monsters.  But obviously those parents are blocking our their middle school years.

Brave New World.  It’s not my favorite book, but it’s got a lot going on, so much so that it’s almost like there are two novels here: one sci-fi book and one thoughtful look at the way that colonialism affects native cultures.  I’m wary to reread this one, because I’m turning into the “get off my lawn, you darn kids!” type and I’m afraid I’d be seeing too much of the hedonism of the book in our own present-day society.

1984.  This was one of the first non-horror titles to scare the heck out of me.  Again, afraid to reread because of what’s going on today.  But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read.  In fact, it’s probably more necessary now than ever.

Catcher in the Rye.  This one’s due for a reread; I barely remember it.  But I do remember that there was something about the teenaged experience in it–or the mindset–that felt timeless.  I remember enjoying the heck out of it; I wonder if I would now.  Still, you should read it. 😀

To Kill a Mockingbird.  I remember when I was a freshman and the sophomores were reading it, I had no idea what I was in for.  We mocked the title (“Tequila Mockingbird”), we puzzled over the author’s genderless name (“Maybe that’s how they do it in the South?”).  But then the next year, we read it, and we loved it.  And the movie, of course.  My daughter wanted to watch the movie about a year or two ago.  She’s not ready, but I’m waiting for the day that she is.

Just in case you were wondering what else I read in high school that’s mentioned on the banned book section of the ALA website, let’s see:

Native Son (loved it)

Of Mice and Men (liked it, even though it depressed me–I guess I was a freshman)

A Farewell to Arms (I don’t know that I read this one, actually; I think this might’ve been when we were told we could choose between this or another book, which I think was Wuthering Heights, but I am not sure at all anymore)

The Chocolate War (Really?  We LOVED that book!)

Wow, looking back, we were given a lot of great books to read.  And now you hear about classes reading Twilight together and…it boggles the mind.

So, to sum up this sort of disjointed post (I haven’t had breakfast yet; I’m going to remedy that in a few minutes): Read a banned book.  And tell me if you liked it, especially if I recommended it!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jillian permalink
    October 2, 2008 4:23 pm

    I love Lord of the Flies. I have no problem believing that children would degenerate so quickly into what is depicted there.

    I disliked Catcher in the Rye. I just read it in the past year or so and was not impressed. Holden came across as a spoiled arrogant brat and I saw nothing of my teenage years or mindset in him.

    I think that children should read age appropriate books. And I think that they are smart enough to figure that out. Before they are old enough to wonder about some things, they will skim over it if they happen to read a book that is maybe a little old for them. And I think you are right about the “yet” part. I would be horrified if someone gave the Kushiel Trilogy books to a tween who was getting interested in sex. Those books are too old for that age. But I wouldn’t say that they could never read them or that they couldn’t read them until they were 18 or 21 or something.

  2. bookslide permalink*
    October 2, 2008 7:56 pm

    Part of the problem is that libraries tend to have three sections: Easy, Juvenile, and Young Adult. Except there’s really an age group in between that: Tween, for lack of a better term. Or maybe it’s just because my kid is an advanced reader? I’m not sure. But after Harry Potter, there was nowhere to go but YA, and some of that stuff is holycrap way too sexual for an 11-year-old.

    Sigh.

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