Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Day of Things Banned

A note to anyone who saw the unedited version of this post- I was typing in html and hit the wrong button so the first part posted on accident. This is the full post, you can stop wondering if I was asleep at the wheel.

I was visiting one of the links I've got in my sidebar, a lovely author called Trisha Leaver and saw that she had a post on banned books in her child's school. This got me thinking about banned books in my area of the country.

When I was in high school my school district (yes, I still live in it) had a policy that soem books had to be checked out with a permission slip from the parents. For example, if you wanted to read The Qua'ran you had to get permission from your parents. There were other books, I don't remember them right now, but I rmeember at the time a vague idea that it wasn't okay for the school to be minding my reading.

I will say this, when I was in elementary school, my school shared a library with the junior high we shared a name with. When I hit about fourth grade the books in the elementary section were starting to bore me. I asked permission to check out books from the junior high side of the library. I had to have my parents sign a note for me. They did, and I honestly don't think my mom paid the slightest attention to what I was reading at home. But I am glad the librarian made me ask them. Then again, once I was in high school, if I needed a book they wanted permission for me to check out I would either forge my mom's signature or go to the public library or a bookstore and get it. My family was very poor when I was a kid, but what little income I had left over from my after school job went to the local Barnes and Noble or Waldenbooks.

So, like I said, Trisha got me thinking, and I wanted to look at a list of the books banned in my area. This was suprisingly hard to find. There is not actually a list of books on the internet that my school district has banned or restricted. This is particularly interesting to me because today is school board elections. (There's another ban going on, I'll talk about that later)So I went to the Secretary of State's website for my state and looked up the books that have been banned (that is, taken of public or school chelves) or challenged (that means someone or a group of someones objected to them but it didn't get banned). I've actually read quite a few of them.

So I am going to bore you with a list of books from my state banned or restricted list that I have actually read. I will occasionally make a note about some of them. I think some of the books banned are suprising. (a note, I cannot tell from the SOS website whether some of these books are still banned, challenged or otherwise restricted, there is no mention of it) I will star anything I checked out without needing permission or was required to read in high school. Those are obvisouly not banned anymore

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain* I checked this out from my old church library when I was about 12. We read it in high school.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain*
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarche*
Animal Farm, George Orwell * I read this my sophmore year in english. We learned all about the parallels to communism and how its evil. Seriously. I thought this book was a bore.
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
The Bean Tress, Babrbara Kingsolver
Beloved, Toni Morrison Another one of those books I read because we read another Toni Morrison in class at school. You'd think they wouldn't give us the works of banned authors just in case we liked them so much we did further reading on our own. Then again, maybe they don't expect teenagers to do further reading.
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
CAll of The Wilde, Jack London
Candide, Voltaire
The Cantebury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer* We not only read this, we hda to memorie the prolouge in the old germanic for my advanced lit class my senior year. Our teacher took the time to explain to us about the preists being syphillitic, in case we missed it. We got the total breakdown on how gross that book really is. Also, made me apprciate the movie A Knight's Tale a lot more.
Carrie, Steven King
Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Crucible, Arthur Miller* One of our local high schools actually did this for their spring play a few years back.
The Davinci Code, Dan Brown I assume this one is because we aren't allowed to contemplate the Bible being wrong. That said, I didn't like this book too well. It's well written but Dan Brown's tone is so superior it makes me angry.
Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller*
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank* Read this one in junior high
Farenheight 451, Ray bradbury
Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkein
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes*
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemmingway
Frankenstein, Marie Shelley
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell One of my favorite books of all time. Banned because of the use of the n-word.
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinback* I still have a hard time understanding how anything this boring could be banned. (only kidding, I get why it was banned)
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald *
HArry Potter and the Socerer's Stone, JK Rowling I remember this one really specifically because at the time I had just started reading the series. Apparently a lot of the people who had wanted the book banned hadn't even read it. They just assumed that if the main character was going to a school for witchcraft and wizzardry, it was about the devil and it would teach children to worship satan.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee* I read this when I was in seventh grade, we had it as a required book when I was a Freshman in high school. I didn't understand the meaning of teh book until I was in high school, but I was completely able to follow the plot and enjoy the book when I was younger without being scarred for life.
King Lear, Shakespere*
Lady Chetterly's Lover, DH Lawrence
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis I bet they felt really stupid when they figured out Aslan was a Christ symbol
Lord of the Flies, William Golding * This book did scar me. I had problems for weeks after I read this. I was a sophmore in high school. Maybe it was teh symbolism that got me. Maybe I didn't want to be marooned on an island with my classmates. Whatever it was, I STILL dont like this book.
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury*
The Merchant of Venice, Shakespere*
Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
1984, George Orwell*
Of Mice and Men, John Steiback*
The Oddessy, Homer*
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Paradise Lost, John Milton*
The Pillar sof the Earth, Ken Follett
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
A Raisin in the Sun, Lorainne Hansbury*
Schindlers List, Thomas Keaneally
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Gutterson This is a great book. I honestly can's see why it was being challenged unless it was in an elementary school. It briefly mentions that sex happens, but nothing graphic goes on at all. I may have to re-read it now to see if I can figure out why it was challenged.
A Time to Kill, John Grisham
HAmlet, Shakespere*
Richard II, Shakespere*
Macbeth, Shakespere*
Twelfth Night, Shakespere*
Ulysses, James Joyce
A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L'Engle*

On this list that I found are also about 20 other books I have on my shelves that I have been meaning to read. I'll definately have to get on that.

I would like to hear from my readers (all seven of you!) whether or not there are any books you think should be banned, or if there are books you've read that were banned or banned at the time. Thoughts on my list? Thoughts on my school district making me read books that were banned by the state at one point or another? (I might also mention, I read all of those almost exclusively during my freshman and sophmore years)

Honestly, I understand how some books probably don't need to be in junior high and high school libraries. For example, The Joy of Sex not really needed for academic achievement unless you're in a sociology class. Sociology is only offered as a dual college credit course in my town anyway. I get the whole freedom of speech and reading what you want, but then, that's what a public library and the bookstore are for.

It's hard for me to draw that line because I do know awesome parents that keep tabs on what their kids read and will know if the book is healthy for them or not. On the other hand, most parents will not keep track. Mine didn't. I was reading Lois duncan when I was ten years old. I probably didn't need to be. Of course, it didn't hurt me at all.

In other news, there is a vote in my city today to ban smoking in all public places and to ban alcohol consumption in movie theaters and other family venues. I haven't had anythign to vote for since I moved in with Kitten just after the last presidential election, so I haven't changed my voting district. I don't get to go vote today. Oscelot and Kitten are going to vote. I'm a smoker, and I am avidly following how this works out. It's likely I will post something on the vote later today.

I hope everyone is having a lovely day. Whether it is banned or not, go read a book soon.



  1. Well I don't think any book should be banned a government or public entity. Period. Now a parent, guardian, or private school fine. It is tha parent or guardians choice (at least until a certain age) and it was the parents choice to send them to said private school. I have read most of the books on the list and as I went to several schools (several dozen) in my youth, most of them had some books banned (or at least that they refused to have in the library). I always find it humorous that any Missouri school bans Mark Twain books. I mean he is from Missouri. Also I did read in the local paper recently that a group is again trying to ban "Huck Finn" as racist, obviously they have never read the book.

  2. I completely agree with you. Especially about "Huck Finn." It's the same as banning Gone with The Wind or Uncle Tom's Cabin. Just because there is a portrayal of a negative, or non-normative experience doesn't mean it is wrong or bad. It just means it's different.

    Of course, in this area, different is usually bad to the locals. Its a real shame. The entire point of reading is to broaden your mind. Well, and to be entertained. But both can be done at teh same time. It breaks my heart to see how many people out there reduse to branch out, or understand new forms of literature because they are afraid to step outside their comfort zones.

  3. I have read over half of that list and it mad me feel much better about my reading Habits.
    When I was in 6th grade I had to write a report and do a debate style speech about censorship, I was (and still am not) a fan. I held my ground very well sense I was fighting off about 30 raging middleschoolers who kept ponting out "porn is bad" and if I did not like the government deciding what we read clearly I thought children (children to a 6th grader being 10 and under)should read porn. Jesus. I don't feel like things have evolved much sense then...I still feel the same way. Leave it up to the damn parents. If you have to do a book report or presentation OK the book with the teacher.
    Sorry for the rant. Good post.

  4. Thanks Shell.

    Kitten and I were talking yesterday about how parents should be involved in what their children read. Unfortunately, a lot of parents don't pay attention to their children's reading, they just assume it is good they are picking up a book.

    I think it is wonderful that there are responsible librarians out there telling kids that maybe the book they choose is too adult for them, and if they read it maybe they should discuss it with an adult afterwards. My librarian did that for me.

    What I don't like is a vigilante parent or schoolboard saying a book shouldn't be available to someone because it might not agree with tehir idea of moral or social correctness.

  5. I've read almost all of those books, and most of them in school.

    I'm not into banning books. I'm with you re: other people dictating to me (or my fictional children) what I can or cannot read based on their own moral code. And, as you say, many of the people who protest a book have never even read it. One of my favorite books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, is on a lot of banned/protested lists. Well of course it is. It deals with religious tolerance and rebellion. That was sarcasm, btw. *G*

    On a side note, I read Animal Farm when I was 8 and love it to this day. Anything by Faulkner, on the other hand, is banned from my personal reading list. ;0)

  6. I'm not bitter about that Aravis. I don't particularly like Dickens, although you'll find him on my bookshelf. Now, you won't find any steinback there, because I may be a snob, but there's not a chance in the world I'll ever pick up one of his books on purpose. never again. They depress me.

  7. well I love Dickens but knowing that he wrote for a paper that paid him by the word and therefore being a sensible man wrote as many words as possible. So I feel no regret in skipping large sections of his books. Faulkner, Steinbeck I have read but wouldn't go out of my way to read again. Then again I read a lot and a lot of stuff that is simply boring to most people (read thirst for knowledge here).

  8. Classics. More then 2/3 of those books listed are Classics!!!!!!!!! I read almost all of them as a adolescent and have grown up to be a rather well-adjusted, productive member of society. I don't get it. I just don't get it.