Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Ode to the Banned Book

Currently Reading: The Burning of Bridget Cleary by Angela Bourke; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (which is a BANNED book! Muahahahaha!)

Happy Banned Books Week! In case you didn't know, this week is National Banned Books Week, which obviously warrants a blog post, since this is something I feel strongly about. My position on this issue can be summed up in one very succinct sentence: "Books should never, never, never be banned!" I will elaborate.

While the idea of banning books at times can be a bit humorous (especially when one glances at some of the books on the banned list), it is actually a matter that I take seriously. I am a book lover. I love the idea of books and the act of reading. Of course there are many books that I do not like. Yet I feel all books have some merit to them and must be given a chance; I may not like a certain book, but perhaps it is important to someone and has touched their life. To me, that book then has merit. Which is why the idea of banning or censoring a book seems to me to be both ludicrous and tragic.

The first time the topic of banned books really incensed me was during high school Humanities class, after watching a documentary on the issue of banning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is banned for the repeated usage of one word: the N-word. Parents in the documentary were outraged over the usage of this highly controversial word, although it was being used entirely in historical context. They fought to have the book removed from their children's high school English curriculum; some succeeded. In recent news, an edition of Huckleberry Finn actually came out in January that replaces the N-word with "slave." Don't even get me started on how I feel about editors mutilating one of the finest pieces of American literature because we may be here all night. Other books on the banned book list, for one reason or another:
        - 1984 by George Orwell
        - The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
        - The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
        - A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
        - A Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
        - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
        - A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
        - Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
        - James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
        - The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
        - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Some of these books are banned for their ideas, while others are challenged for specific passages about death, racism, or word usage. For instance, one of the main characters dies tragically in A Bridge to Terabithia, a scene that made me sob as a young girl but helped me learn to start coping with the idea of death. While I agree that a parent has a prerogative to monitor what their child reads, listens to, or watches on television, parents cannot shelter their children from everything life will throw at them. Banning books stifles a child's imagination, emotions, capability of handling difficulties in life, and in the case of Huckleberry Finn, an understanding and appreciation for the good and bad aspects of America's past. When schools begin to ignore crucial historical facts and pretend they never happened, children lose the opportunity to explore these issues and appreciate the changes that have been made since then. Our children will face racism, hatred, death, violence, despair, and anger in this world with or without books. But I believe that books help us come to terms with what we don't understand or cannot accept, and teaches us how to cope with what life hands us. We want a better world for our children, do we not? That goal will never be achieved if they are raised in ignorance. By limiting what a child can read, one ends up limiting their ability to think and reason for themselves.

Yet I must say that I love how "book society" responds to the concept of banned books: celebrating Banned Books Week by calling attention to them, pulling them out, and placing them within reach of young, growing, intelligent minds, which is what our library has been doing this week. Instead of shunning the books deemed unacceptable, we celebrate these books by dedicating an entire week to their existence and importance. That is cause for rejoicing.

Have a great Wednesday! Go check out a banned book! :)


  1. We celebrated Banned Books Week at English club!! :) My roommate and I made brownies with a red line through a book in frosting on top! Then at the club we shared our favorites, had a game where we had to guess why the book was banned, and discussion :) The #1 book that surprised me: THE DICTIONARY!! Can you believe it?? It was because it had the definition for "oral sex." I was simply appalled to say the least! I haven't read nearly enough banned books / classics and this inspired me too! :)

  2. The Dictionary?? That's crazy!
    Jill, when I read the list of banned books you posted I had to chuckle because you read a good majority of them to me out loud when I was quite young. No wonder I turned out so messed up... haha Just kidding. :)


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