Posts Tagged ‘censorship’

September 30, 2012


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Source: The American Library Association

With Sept. 30-Oct. 6 being Banned Books Week, I want to go on the record: People — of all ages — should be able to read what they want. Yes, even those poorly written “Fifty Shades” books, if that’s what keeps them turning the pages.

It’s not so important what they read, just as long as they’re reading. Of course I’d like them to read well-written, expertly crafted tales (like mine!). But what matters is that they’re engrossed in something that allows them to escape their reality, exposes them to new ideas or just plain entertains them and keeps them out of trouble.

Besides,  even the classics have their critics — a reality that not only baffles me, but riles me up and honks me off. We write because we have stories we need to share. Who is someone else to say, “Your story offends me so no one should have the chance to read it”?

Among the wealth of information on the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week website is this list of banned or challenged classics.

I’ve organized them into categories: Books I’ve read, books I want to read, books I have no interest in and ones I’ve never even heard of. (Thank goodness only a few of them ended up on that list!)

No matter where they fall on my list, try to imagine what our lives would be without them.

Read (many for a class, some for “fun,” when I had time for that kind of thing)

  1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  4. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  5. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  6. 1984, by George Orwell
  7. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  8. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  9. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  10. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (One of my all-time favorite books. I read it for the first time in 7th grade and for years wanted to live in a restored Ga. plantation house with my three cats, a tiger-striped one named Scarlett, a black one named Rhett and a white one named Ashley.)
  11. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  12. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  13. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  14. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
  15. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

Want to read (if I ever have time)

  1. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  2. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
  3. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  4. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  5. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  7. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence
  8. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  9. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
  10. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
  11. Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
  12. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller  (Wasn’t there a “Seinfeld” episode featuring this one? George still had the book he checked out from his high school library …)
  13. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike (This book, along with other “Rabbit” books, graced my parents’ bookshelf in the living room when I was a kid, but — unlike some of Mom’s other books — I never stole it off the shelf to read it.)

Sorry, not interested

  1. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck  (Tried to read it in high school, but could not get through it)
  2. Ulysses, by James Joyce
  3. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  4. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  5.  As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
  6. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  7. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (I watched the movie because I read Brad Pitt said he loved it, and — despite my love for Brad Pitt, hated it)
  9. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
  10. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  11. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien  (Blasphemy, I know.)
  12. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
  13. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

Never heard of it (showing my ignorance, I’m sure)

  1. Native Son, by Richard Wright
  2. Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
  3. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  4.  Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
  5. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

October 2, 2010



No writer — or reader, for that matter — should let the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week pass without note, so here goes.

Censorship has always angered me. It’s one reason I haven’t followed in the footsteps of my college adviser, who specialized (I believe) in media law and First Amendment issues. I’ve thought about getting a graduate degree media law before, and it was one of my favorite classes … but I think studying censorship all the time would leave me perpetually pissed off — and that’s something my good-natured, romantic-comedy-loving self doesn’t want to be.

It never ceases to amaze me what some people find objectionable, though. Check out the list of 100 frequently challenged classics: “Lord of the Rings”? “1984”? “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? “Winnie the Pooh”?

Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” was removed from classrooms in Miller, Mo.,  in 1980 because it makes promiscuous sex “look like fun”?

Of the 100 that made the list, I’ve read about 30 — either in middle school, high school or college. There are another four that I definitely want to read … and the rest I know I should read (someday, if I ever find the time).

The list of the top 100 most frequently banned books from 1990-1999 includes some of my childhood favorites: “The Outsiders,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Carrie” and pretty much anything by Judy Blume.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was lucky to have gone to school in rural Indiana. I had some great “radical-thinking” teachers who didn’t shy away from teaching banned classics. In fact, I wrote an article for my high school paper back in 1988 talking about some of their reasons for teaching censored books.

The gist: The lessons such books teach far outweigh any “offensive” language or concepts used. As my senior English and composition teacher, Darwin Sievers, explained: It’s important to be aware of all experiences, not just pleasant ones. “Maybe students can avoid unpleasant firsthand experiences if they can experience them secondhand,” he said.

Besides, who gets to be the final arbiter of what’s truly offensive? I find the words spewing from the mouths of certain politicians offensive (no, I’m not naming names) … but that doesn’t mean I have the right to tell them they can’t say those things. I can turn the channel when they come on TV because I don’t have to listen — but I can’t keep others from hanging on every idiotic word.

Same goes for reading. If you don’t like a book, don’t buy it. Don’t read it. Don’t try to keep others from reading, though. And definitely don’t try to get it banned from your library. (All you’ll do is drum up sales of it. Controversy sells books.)

I need to wrap up this post before I get even more worked up. *Deep breath.*

Since I’m curious, I’ll borrow a question from agent Nathan Bransford: What’s your favorite banned book?

I can’t pick just one. I honestly can’t imagine life without any of them. I’m sure I wouldn’t be who I am today had I never read “Charlotte’s Web,” “Gone with the Wind,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and too many other books to mention.