As it is the ALA’s annual Banned Books Week this week, I stumbled upon an article at the Huffington Post website called “The 11 Most Surprising Banned Books“. As I was looking through these eleven books, I noticed I’ve read many of them, so I thought I’d do a little post about the ones I’ve read. (And yes, this is more or less a rant about how I dislike people trying to stop others from doing things.)
1.) The Dictionary
Okay, obviously this is something I have used many a time, as I’m sure every grown person who has at one time or other attended school has done so. Apparently the dictionary was banned in various schools, one elementary school in California for having a not-age-appropriate definition of oral sex. To be honest, I doubt there is any definition of oral sex that would be considered age-appropriate for elementary aged students. So there’s not really a win there. Plus, there are many other things of the nature of oral sex that are also in the dictionary. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if children that age know what that is–I’d be a bit more concerned as to why they want to know what it is.
2.) Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This is, “the classic depicting poverty and the struggles of migrant workers was and often still is banned for obscenity and for the negative light in which the country was painted.”
Okay, this was required reading for me at school when I was 17. Yes, the US wasn’t depicted in the best light in this novel. But the novel is very true to the story of what many people went through during the Depression in the 1930s. “The negative light in which the country was painted”–How can one paint a very positive light on the Depression? I actually rather loved this novel after I had finished it and got over the fact that it had been assigned reading.
4.) Beloved and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature has had her books banned for obscene language and gratuitous violence in many parts of the country.”
So what with the obscene language? I mean, the words bitch, damn, hell, and ass can be heard on many TV shows today without being bleeped out. And, while those shows may not be meant for children, they’re probably more readily available to children than these books are.
6.) James and the Giant Peach and The Witches by Roald Dahl
“James” was banned for obscenity and violence, while “The Witches” was banned for sexism and devaluing the life of a child.”
Okay, violence and devaluing the life of a child. I get how those are bad things. But if we’re going to use these reasons to ban these books I can list a great many Disney movies that children shouldn’t watch, based on these same reasons–Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Fox and the Hound, Bambii. And other lovely fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc. Sorry kids: you don’t get to hear the most beloved stories of our time because they have mean people in them and the heros/heroines have to struggle to come out on top.
7.) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
“Anne Frank’s diary has been banned on multiple occasions. The most recent was in January 2010 when the book was pulled from a Virginia school for “sexually explicit” and “homosexual” themes.”
I personally loved this book, even though it could be a little boring and mundane at times. It is such a great learning tool for English and History classes alike. Anne was a tween and this was her diary–of course she’s going to have something about sex in there somewhere.
8.) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“Not easy to figure out why this one was banned, but it may have been that the strongest woman character marries a boring and much older man–counter to feminism.”
How is that a counter to feminism? Jo also turned down another character before she ended up with Bhaer at the end of the novel–something I see as furthering along feminism. Plus, she waited until she fell in love and didn’t care how much older that man was–another thing I see as furthering feminism. Jo isn’t the kind of woman to stop working and writing just because she got married–another feminist thing.
10.) A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
“Banned in 1993 at an elementary school in Florida because it “promotes disrespect, horror, and violence,” soon became one of the most banned books of the 1990s.”
Disrespect: Take any politically aligned book for adults–on either end of the political spectrum–and they often completely disrespect the other.
Horror: Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, etc. Not to mention the series that is age-aligned with Shel Silverstein readers, RL Stein’s Goosebumps.
Violence: Go back to all those I mentioned above that are Disney movies or fairy tales and you’ll find some sort of violence in all of them.
11.) A Wrinkle in Time (and the rest of the series?) by Madeleine L’Engle
“Because it’s a tale of the battle of good and evil, many were concerned it was making a religious argument they didn’t want their children exposed to.”
You know, I think this is a misconception some people often make. Good and evil does not have to relate to religion. A person can be good and have morals and know what is right and wrong without being religious. And aren’t those fairy tales and Disney movies I mentioned above often a battle between good and evil? However, I guess the Time series is a little more fantastical than most fairy tales, but they’re age appropriate for the projected audience.
Here’s a link to my original post about ALA’s Banned Books Week: Sept. 25th-Oct. 1st.