Greetings from the Rhine River! This next post for my Oktoberfest series comes from one of my best blogger friends A. K. Andrew. Did you know that hundreds of books are challenged or banned in US schools, libraries, and bookstores every year? Banned Books Week for 2014 takes place this week September 21 -27, 2014. Thanks so much to Jeri for the honor of being a guest on her site. I’m thrilled to be here.
The following information comes from the Banned Books Week website: The event was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 307 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2013, and many more go unreported. The 10 most challenged titles of 2013 were:
- Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
- A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
- Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
- Bone (series), by Jeff Smith Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence
I’ve not read Captain Underpants, but doesn’t it sound like fun? The series was banned in some schools for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority – Dear oh dear. We wouldn’t want to encourage children to be independent thinkers and potentially challenge authority now would we?
7 Banned Books over the Decades
The Library of Congress, the world’s largest repository of knowledge and information began a multi-year project called “Books that Shaped America.” All the Books on their list are considered to be ones that have had a profound effect on readers, but have also at some point been challenged or banned.
I have chosen 7 books, some of which you will know, to give an idea of how brittle the American psyche can be when it comes to the written word. To be honest, the one that leapt out for me was Our Bodies, Ourselves. I remember reading it in the late seventies, and being astounded at how much information about women’s bodies was finally all together in one place in a readable fashion. Unbelievable that one public library thought it promotes homosexuality and perversion! Ideas of women’s sexuality have changed to a certain extent since the 1970’s, but then here in 2013, the novel Fifty Shades of Grey made the list!
The descriptions of why the books were banned have been taken from the Banned Books Website
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
Kern County, California has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939). Objections to profanity—especially goddamn and the like—and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s. It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 50s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book. The book presents the life story of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, who was a human rights activist and who has been called one of the most influential Americans in recent history.
Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970
Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s great American tome stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”
Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971
Challenges of this book about the female anatomy and sexuality ran from the book’s publication into the mid-1980s. One Public Library lodged it “promotes homosexuality and perversion.” Not surprising in a country where some legislators want to keep others from saying the word “vagina.”
The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002
The works of Chavez were among the many books banned in the dissolution of the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Unified School District disbanded the program so as to accord with a piece of legislation which outlawed Ethnic Studies classes in the state. To read more about this egregious case of censorship, click here.
What is the effect of Banning Books? Does it succeed in keeping Books out of Peoples hands?
We have heard of book burnings in countries outside of America, most notably in the 20th Century in Nazi Germany. But frankly I was shocked at the extent of the challenges or outright banning of some of the material in the US. It is particularly damaging to children who do not necessarily have the means to otherwise get the material if not through school or the local library. And of course for many, books not in the library are just unaffordable. Therefore by banning books, we are in effect potentially discriminating against children, the poor, elderly and disabled, depriving them of their right to read what they want.
That said, some of the biggest challenges to books that are being banned have come from children themselves in schools who have protested – very loudly – about its unfairness.
The Banned Books website talks about “heroes” who have stood up for the freedom to read, many of them children. One of the dedicated group of students fought to keep “he Perks of Being a Wallflower in schools was Carly Blaser in the Glen Ellyn School District Ill.
This was her response regarding the challenge.
“I heard about the book being challenged through kids just talking about it in the hallway, and I didn’t really know if it was true until my friends Cate, Nicole and Olivia asked me if I wanted to sign the petition and be part of the group to try and save the book. This book really changed me and I didn’t want to just stand by and see it be ban, when it could save so many kids.”
Inspiring stuff, I have to say. Perhaps in trying to prevent children from challenging authority, the effect has had the exact opposite effect
Should We Ever Ban Books?
My gut reaction is no. I find myself wavering at times when it comes to writing that incites hatred. However, that argument immediately falls on shaky ground from the perspective of freedom of speech that the majority of the people in the US take very seriously. It is our right under the First Amendment. And rightly so. It’s vital that people’s views in written material are uncensored, and that everyone have access to as much diverse material as possible, rather than it being filtered to only present one viewpoint. I believe the intellectual freedom we have in America is essential and we should challenge it, wherever it is threatened.
Do check out the Banned Book Website, and find out how you can become involved and what might be happening in your community during banned book week.
What are your views on the issue? Is there ever a case where a book should be banned in the country in which you live? What books have been challenged or banned by schools in your area?
A. K. Andrew is a novelist currently looking for an agent for her novel Under the Bed. You can find A. K. at her website. If you enjoyed this post, then come and check out her blog, which posts every other Monday. You can connect with her on: Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Scoop.it
Image Credit: Freadom, Censorship, and Forbidden provided courtesy of Banned Books Poster Page.
The cover of Our Bodies, Ourselves and A. K. Andrew’s author photo are for promotional use only and comply with fair use guidelines.
This is a very thought provoking post AK. Always my initial emotion is that NO book should ever be forbidden for any reason…nor form of the written word. But I get the glitch in my stomach when it comes to hate speech. Then it rolls over into first amendment rights, like you, I regard our first amendment as the most important freedom we enjoy and the thing that sets us apart from so many other countries. In the end, I have to go that way… that no books should ever be banned. But when it comes to reading choices for children, I think it could be handled better without the outright banning of books…more parental influence regarding curriculum etc.
Looks like we’re on the same page Jacquie. But then what is hate material for one person, is not to another, so we really do need to stick with first amendment rights. But every parent has the right to guide a child in their reading if they choose. But as to schools, I’m definitely against material being banned in the way it currently is. Thanks Jacquie.
Hello to AK! Of course on the subject of books that should be banned, the first thought I had was Mein Kampf by the ever delightful Adolf Hitler but since the banning of books generally results in more publicity and thus more sales, I would agree that books should never be banned. Parents should, however, be allowed to opt out if they don’t want their children reading certain books. Thought provoking blog – thanks! Jan
Hi Jan, very happy to hear you found thought provoking. I agree I’d have a hard time with my child reading Mein Kampf in a educational setting, and you make a good point too about the publicity often having the opposite effect. Parents need to follow their instincts with regard to what their children read, though hopefully their children will learn how to make good decisions too. Easier said than done of course. But I do feel giving people the freedom to make those choices is the important step.
I am guessing most of us responding to this post will be on the same or a very similar page. For me, I can completely understand why parents might not want their children reading Fifty Shades of Grey as a school assignment. A ban seems a little over the top. Of course schools include a vast range of age levels, degrees of sophistication and intellectual awareness, as well as general maturity. What may be a good book for one is completely irresponsible for another. Like I said, banning seems a bit much. Parental input would be disruptive as one parent would like one and another would not. I don’t know the answer but am thinking about it.
Thanks Tim, and yes, I’m sure we’re mostly going to be on the same page! I can also understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to read 50 Shades of Grey, but frankly I only think that because it’s both an adult book, and poorly written! So age appropriate is part of the issue, and giving people a voice is another. I don’t envy the tough job parents have on monitoring material that children are exposed to these days, but banning books certainly isn’t the answer.
I laugh at Captain Underpants being banned. When my son was in grade 2 he chose this as a book he wanted from Scholastic. Eww, I thought and managed to convince him of another. Fast forward two months and he started tutoring (dyslexia) He came home clutching a Captain Underpants and wanting to read it to me. We went through the entire Captain Underpants in about two weeks and his reading improved dramatically. Irreverent with a certain disrespect for authority figures? Absolutely!
But they’re great fun and Have helped turn my son into an avid reader. One more example of why books shouldn’t be banned.
Sorry Pat – my reply to you is listed as a new comment – oops forgot to hit the right button!
Well that’s really good to hear about Captain Underpants. I’d not read it myself, but a great story that it helped your son to read. What is it with boys and their him or? But as you say, if it helps then it’s a winner.
I personally believe that reader must have the right to decide what he/she wants to read. This is against freedom on person. Many books are banned in my country but I will write about a recent ban.
Malala Yousafzai’s book banned in Pakistan in different schools , it is claimed that ideas about Islam are not right and she acted as a tool of west. I feel sorry for this action and can not understand the double standards as many admire her for work and some are banning… anyways…This is Pakistan.. you can expect anything.
I agree that banning books does limit the freedom rights of the individual, whatever the country. I’m sorry to hear that an author you admire is banned in your country. it is the same all over the world. But we can’t give up, and freedom of speech is essential for a free country.
I do not believe books should ever be banned nor do I believe that people’s reading preferences should be monitored without just cause having to do with individual or public safety.
I agree Michele. As for monitoring, why not leave it up to the individual? Schools need to trust their students to distinguish between good and bad, both in terms of quality and content. An issue of public safety is something altogether different, whereas the books on the list that get banned regularly are largely for punitive reasons it seems.
I do not feel any book should be banned. Everyone has a choice to read or not to read.
Thanks Arleen. I feel the same way. What is so wrong with making up your own mind?
Certain foods are banned because they are proven to be poisonous, and the same goes for many ideas. However, to ban a book is to give it undue attention. Most people who read banned books never heard of the book until it was banned. The important thing is to be discerning, whether it’s books for yourself or your child. Parents have gotten lazy, expecting schools and DVDs to raise their kids. Schools are not responsible for turning children into healthy, productive adults. That remains the parents’ job. If kids are given good principles, they will avoid the filth when they grow up.
Banning books often does give the material undue attention, and I think the key word you mention – discerning – is a good one to use in this situation. Parents do need to give their children the skills to learn to protect themselves and make good judgements as they get older. Until they are are old enough to do that themselves, then yes, parents do need to make sure the material is age appropriate. As for schools, the material should be chosen for literary value, not pushed aside because it doesn’t fall in line with one’s own ideology.
I don’t think books should be banned. There are topics that I wish wouldn’t be the subjects of books, hate mainly, but I wouldn’t ban them. If they are banned, they just get a lot of attention.
I think you’re right Beth, and indeed it does give them more publicity. Protecting the interests of people, need to be in the hands of people themselves.
I have to agree with Michelle and Beth. Don’t ban books – especially for adults! Do, however, teach people to think critically. They can then make their own choices and informed decisions!
Thinking critically is essential and I think that particularly applies to young adults. If they learn the skilll early enough then it will stick.
I agree that everybody should have the freedom to choose what he/she wants to read but that is for adults. What about children? They have to be guided towards the right choices till a particular age and so the schools need to exercise that control, which is very much within their rights. It is the responsibility of the teachers and the parents to put such books before children, which make them understand the prejudices and disparities that are all around us, which make them sensitive to violence, cultural, ethnic and religious issues so that they don’t pick up guns, look at others with hatred. Children become what we make them, if they grow up into irresponsible citizens, the onus lies on us.
Thank you for your comment Balroop. I agree it is the responsibility of adults (both parents and teachers) to provide an awareness of the damage that comes with prejudice whether it be race, religion or sexual orientation. Taking away reading material is the last thing that needs to happen as long as the material is age appropriate and is not going to incite hatred or violence. Beyond that, we can encourage independent and critical thought, so adolescents can make those decisions themselves. As you say , the goal has to be to help them on their way to become responsible citizens who care about the community around them.
Great post… I am quite surprised regarding some titles here… And particularly surprised by the categories used here to ban certain books…
“Sexually explicit” is quite appealing!… I wonder if sex can be subtle … Wouldn’t it be love instead…
Thanks a lot for sharing A.K & Jeri.
All the very best, Aquileana 🙂
Thanks so much Aquileana. I was totally shocked myself by some of the titles, I think Grapes of Wrath in particular. I re-read it a couple of years ago and could think why it would be banned. But political views aren’t always popular. Excellent point about sex!! And yes, sexually explicit does make it appealing! V. glad you stopped by:-)
I don’t agree with censorship of this type. Adults have the right to choose what to read. In the case of children then I think adults should supervise as to what is appropriate. Still, we should all have access to the writtem word no matter what the subject. It’s free will.
I’m with you on this one Phil. Why should other people make our choices for us. Any responsible parent is going to monitor books they give their children in being age appropriate, so it really irks me when I hear about schools and libraries pulling legitimate titles. Free will rules!
Great topic, A.K! This always brings on much debate. I’m sure some might not like my comment, but I’m going to say it anyways. In my opinion, it’s a tough call. There is no longer a black and white response to the First Amendment right.
On the one hand, I understand the educational institutions wanting to implement certain reading materials for particular reasons. I also understand parents not necessarily wanting their children to read those books. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s an infringement on the First Amendment right, because I believe it comes down to parenting. I’m not a parent, but if I was, I would censor some books, as I would movies in regards to my children. As for banning a book, I guess I get confused as to whether it’s actually banned or just not picked as reading material. So I guess the way it’s done now, an outright ban, is drastic. See, I’m all over the place on this subject.
I remember a book on Amazon, A Guide for Pedophiles or something like that, which the public demanded Amazon remove from the site. Amazon argued Freedom of Speech, but eventually took it down because of the backlash it received.
I also recall scholars wanting to change some of the language in Tom Sawyer, because it was offensive. One thing I truly believe in is that no one has a right to change another’s words. You might not like what they have to say, don’t read it, but to change those words is a human violation.
I do believe in the First Amendment right, but I think society has slipped away from morals and values and abuse this right. One example is a church that goes to military wakes and funerals with signs and shouts saying the soldier deserved to die. There are many other situations where I think we’ve stretched this right to where it causes harm, and if that is the case, I don’t believe a particular amendment should include such action.
First Denise, I have to thank Jeri for letting me know this was Banned Books Week, so I can’t take all the credit on that, tho’ the topic instantly sparked my attention. I think know exactly where you’re coming from regarding the first Amendment can mean in terms of allowing things many of us consider hateful to happen. In the UK, there is no first amendment, so certain things are now banned , although recently , for example, they have allowed neo-nazis to march with a big police presence. With regards to books, in some situations in schools the books had been on the reading list and were then pulled if parents objected. But check out the Banned Book Week website, as it gives lots of really inspiring stories about students who fought back. Taking books off a list in this situation is in effect a ban as many students would find the books unaffordable.
As to the First Amendment, although I sometimes see things happening that are inciteful – like the guy who was going to burn the Koran (thank goodness he didn’t) – and you want to say -no don’t let him do that. But then discrimination or prevention of freedom of speech, can’t apply to a few and not all. There has to be freedom for everyone, not just people who’s views we don’t find objectionable. I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. Thanks so much for stopping by:-)
My immediate reaction is no. But considering the brutal extremist ideologies that exist in the world, I’m not sure. But then again, they get their messages across on the web. A book could however facilitate their brainwashing of people all over the world.
It’s so unlike you to go back and forth on an issue Catarina, but I do understand why. I have felt the same, as I said to Denise, but ultimately the First amendment has to stand for everyone, difficult though it might be sometimes. Books are indeed powerful, and can really have life changing effects – we hope they are positive ones. But people who seek out hateful material these days will find it on the internet, whether they have read it in a book or not.
I don’t think any books should be banned. But if something is inappropriate for an age group, it should be explained to the children why. Just telling them no is encouraging ignorance. Telling them why encourages education.
Age appropriate books will vary from child to child, and certainly there shouldn’t be a ban. But you make a good point that explaining why a a child is not ready for a particular book will hopefully help them as they get older to make informed decisions themselves. That said, I think some of the books banned in libraries and schools are not necessarily anything to do with the inappropriateness of age, but rather a bias on subject matter that the individuals themselves don’t care for.Thanks so much for stopping by Loni. Good to meet you:-)
I don’t believe any books should be banned but I do believe parents have the right to oversee and approve what their children read. My children are all grown up now but we used to monitor their TV watching so why shouldn’t we monitor their reading, especially when they’re very young. Once they get into senior high-school it becomes more a matter of discussion.
Absolutely Lenie. Parents have to make decisions about what is appropriate for their children all the time in all kinds of ways, and certainly TV is a perfect example. I’m sure parents also have to monitor video games too, as well as the appropriateness of material online as well.
AK did I read this right: this is in the US? Why not, instead of banning books (which I absolutely abhor the idea) rate the books? Like we do with movies and tv shows.
Is this the continuing eroding of our freedom of speech liberty?
Yes you did read this correctly. I too was shocked when I researched the subject for this post. Unbelievable isn’t it? Rating books could work, though then who would take charge of it? Unfortunately I doubt there would be the money to fund it, and you might run into the same problems as the ban provokes now.I’m not sure the situation is any worse today than it was in previous decades regarding written material at least. Many of the titles today would never even have been printed a few decades ago. Thanks for your insightful comment Pat:-)
I am simply astounded by the list of 7 books that have been banned at some time. If I just saw that list I would think it was maybe of list of must reads not a list of banned books. Generally I agree with you that books shouldn’t ever be banned, but that is a different issue than keeping books out of the hands of children under a certain ago. I’m not thinking of Captain Underpants but more along the lines of books that are excessively violent.
it really is astonishing, and in part that’s why I listed those books as they are such notable works of literature . I have to thank Jeri for introducing me to banned book week, but in doing the research for the post I was blown away at both the number of books , as well as the content. Children do need to have some supervision in terms of age appropriate material, but I really think books like Captain Underpants is going a bit far to say the least. Thanks so much for joining the discussion. Good to see you:-)
The reader and writer in me protests the thought of books being banned; even so, my qualifier is books should be presented as age appropriate and maturity-level appropriate, much in the way movies are.
I was always extremely sensitive about what went into the eyes and ears of my children (and those around me). For example, sometimes they were allowed to watch a movie that was rated ‘R’ because I had pre-screened it and deemed it appropriate.
In the same way, some of the books on this banned list either need a “rating” or a parent’s permission to read. I’ve read almost all of them and whatever feelings they evoke or information they impart, they each are instructive in one way or another. (I would want my 10 year old grandson to read Beloved or Malcolm or Mockingbird, but I would want him to read them at some time later in his development!)
Thanks for shining more light on the issue.
Thanks so much for your insightful comment Vernessa. I think age appropriate is really the key here – as you said, an excellent and vital book such as Beloved is a must read for everyone as far as I’m concerned, but not for a ten year old. When, has to be a judgment call made by the parents. And different points of view will prevail. But banning books for adults in this day and age is outrageous.
Canada has a similar initiative as the US Banned Books Week. It is called Freedom to Read Week and takes place in February. Through both initiatives, I have become aware of and been surprised by the books that have been banned through the years, many of which are wonderful books or classics. Often the bans occurred in schools under pressure from parents who frequently had not read the books in question. While I believe we need to direct children toward age-appropriate books, banning books is not a good thing. When you read the reasons for the ban, it frequently comes down to one person or group of persons imposing their view of the world on others or a total misinterpretation of the book. We need to expose children to other ideas and teach them to read critically.
Thank you so much for your comment Donna. I’m pleased to hear there’s a similar organization in Canada. It is so frustrating when issues like this come down to one or two individuals which insistently impose their will to the detriment of many. I think it’s essential that we do teach children the value of critical thinking as well as reading critically, and while works need to be age appropriate, I believe beyond that , students should be able to make their own decisions.
It is quite surprising that so many books are banned in the world. I find it interesting also that 50 Shades of grey is challenged so much when it was on almost every woman’s lips. Must be men challenging it haha. As far as banning is concerned, I do believe that some content needs to be kept away from progressive people to avoid wrong agendas being pushed into humankind.
It was certainly surprising t me that so many were banned in the US. I suppose re: 50 Shades of Grey is a good example of it being a popular book that it then limited by the narrow-mindedness of the few. As to banning books, I feel that id people are progressive they are not going to be swayed by material. And people who are not progressive deserve the same first amendment rights. Thanks so much for contributing to the discussion. It’s most appreciated:-)
I must agree that books should not be banned. Like everything else we need to approach them with care and caution. Not every book is appropriate for everyone. If parents and teachers would come together about the books that are to become reading assignments, perhaps there would be less attempts at banning them. Big sigh…
Thanks Cheryl. It’s a shame that there isn’t more collaboration, because one would hope that if that was the case then there might be more room for acceptance over potentially difficult material.
No, no, no on the book bans. It’s a family choice if you don’t want your children exposed to some things before you think they’re ready, but I don’t think anyone has the right to choose that for other families or for their communities. Some of my favorite books have been banned or challenged. The Grapes of Wrath is one of them. Thank you, Jeri and A.K. Andrew!
Thank you Laurie. I like the way you’ve phrased this – that it’s families who should make the choice. And when you think some of your fav. books are on these lists – Grapes of Wrath s one of mine too. hals so much for your comment.
Do banning a book solve any problem? If a school going child hears about a book being banned, the first thing he or she does is to get that book and read to see why it got banned, right? (of course, the kid has to be interested in reading) . When i was growing up, that was what i was doing. He he. My mom, a teacher did say, “oh that book is not really for your age”. I will read it any way, without being noticed by her. That is the fun of growing up… But, do I want my child to read “Fifty shades of grey”? the answer is “No”. I wouldn’t say anything about that book and will not have a copy of it in my home.
I was exactly the same growing up too Bindu. It was a right of passage when I was a teenager (in the late 60s/early 70s) as to who had read Lady Chatterley’s lover. Could never understood what all the fuss was about even then, and now of course it seems so understated. I can understand you not wanting your children to read material that isn’t age appropriate & I think that’s fine. Thank you for the comment:-)
I so agree that books should never be banned. as it is in life things including literature and books need to be approached with care and caution. as others have already said, not every book is appropriate for everyone. Parents will often error on the side of their personal beliefs, not what is truly in the best interest of their child. If they used the offending books as a ways to explain the world they will be a part of, their children would be much better prepared for the future they face. Just my rambling thoughts. 🙂
Oh ramble away Susan! Thanks for weighing in on this. It’s hard, I imagine , as a parent, to not let your own beliefs color how you steer your own children, but I think an explanation or discussion that went along with it would indeed be helpful. At a certain point though it really has to be up to the child. Whether that’s at age 13 , 16 or whatever, is different depending on the individual child.
It’s kinda funny, censorship and control of words are the tools of dictators. The worst thing we can do is to block the freedom of speech whether we agree with the message or not. In the US over 200 years ago, a group of men banded together and united their friends and neighbors because they didn’t have any say in how they were treated. They put their lives and livelihoods on the line in order to bring out some inherent truths. They paid for freedom with their blood.
Nothing bothers me more now when I see people try to stifle the words of another, just because they don’t agree. You can call it hate speak if you want but that road goes both ways. The funny thing about limiting the rights of one group, this same things limits the rights of every group. When it doesn’t something worse happens. People will only put up with tyranny for so long before they push back.
Well said Jon. The issue goes much deeper than banning a copy of Captain Underpants. People , as you said put their life on the line for such benefits in society and indeed all over the world today, so we should not take them lightly in the US. Thanks for joining the discussion.
A.K. — I, too, remember when “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was published and it caused a minor sensation. Until then women didn’t want to talk about their bodies. I don’t believe in censorship because it’s like a cancer that slowly eats away at the corpus. Who defines what’s objectionable? Do we want to emulate Hitler and have book burnings again?
My thoughts exactly Jeanette. The very idea of book burnings is s scary, and that is the image I’m left with when the phrase Banned books comes up. In a way it’s every bit as insidious that it’s going on without most people even knowing about it. Thanks so much for joint the discussion, and glad you remembered the brahooha of Our Bodies Ourselves. Seems unbelievable now, and yet women’s self image is still a major issue for many people.
No books should be banned at all in my opinion.
I agree Jason, whatever the reasons.
Thanks for the great guest post and follow-up comments during my vacation 🙂 This is the second year I’ve published a post on Banned Books Week, and I think it’s safe to say it will become a yearly event.
Candy recently left this comment on my post for last year that I will place here as well: “I have to bow to the wisdom of educators, but having just read in the New York Times that the gay marriage sub-plot in Spamalot (Monty Python) got a high school play canceled and the theater teacher fired, makes me wonder about agendas.”
As a former teacher, that scenario disheartens me so much. More than once I had to deal with parents taking issue with this or that subject matter in various books. Too often, one or two parents get the say so because a lot of people who feel otherwise never speak up. It’s appalling that the teacher got fired for wanting to put on a school production of Monty Python. I wish I could say I fought the good fight when it came to teaching, but there’s just too much teachers are held responsible for. Since I left, Animal Farm is no longer being taught as a classroom book in my former school (which is rural and conservative).
I also just read an article about how we can tailor our likes to such a degree now that we are virtually never exposed to material that conflicts with our beliefs. One reason I went into to teacher was because of the appeal of teaching lines of thinking as well as delving into different cultures, but alas, that doesn’t count for my on standardized tests. It also bugged me when the new librarian (who was not properly certified by the state) started to label books by age appropriateness, which is not supposed to happen under the Intellectual Freedom act.
I could go on, and on, and on…
Thanks Jeri -my pleasure to be able to post on such an important topic. It’s really great to get your insight on the issue given your invaluable experience. It really puts the whole issue into perspective , and how one or two people have such a negative impact for a much larger group. And the issue with Monty Python is totally outrageous. What decade are we living in folks? Thanks so much for taking to leave this comment. Really great!
What a great guest post! I don’t think books should be banned. It’s up to each person if she or he wants to keep turning the page of the book to keep reading. Put it down if it’s not to your taste 🙂 To Kill a Mockingbird is a personal favorite!
Thanks so much Christy. It was a great subject and one I think most readers on this site feel strongly about. I agree that if you don’t like a book , don’t read it it. It’s such a shame when reputable titles are kept out of schools when in many cases students won’t necesarily have the opportunity to read it otherwise. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites too. It’s really too bad , Harper Lee didn’t write more.
Excellent post, AK! Thanks for getting us thinking on the subject of banned books. Although I am a writer/author and feel strongly about freedom of speech, I do draw the line when it comes to the spreading of child pornography or hate literature. I don’t think it’s OK to condone either of those categories under any circumstances.
Thanks Doreen, and I have Jeri to thank for letting me know about Banned Book Week. It’s a tricky topic when you start getting into such heinous stuff as child pornography, but as far as I’m aware all that stuff is illegal anyway. Nothing should be putting children in harms way. like that. Hate literature becomes even more sticky, as someone’s hate literature is perhaps on another person’s belief so that’s when the first amendment comes in. I know we are in agreement when it puts people in danger though, so I obviously don’t condone that at all. There again, thankfully we now have laws which give harsher sentenced for hate crimes. But I think Banned Books week is for the most part reaching out to people to be aware of “ordinary” books , such as To Kill a Mockingbird, that have been picked on by one or two individuals and then deprive a whole number of people from gaining access to them. Thanks so much for your comment:-)
There will always be books that instigate emotional responses from people, but consider how strong the response has to be when you’re immediate reaction is, “no one should ever read this because I don’t want them to feel how I feel right now.”
That’s got to be what’s happening when you decide to ban a book. Makes me feel inspired. Imagine, words so powerful they propel people to want to limit the freedom of others. Words so dangerous that others must be protected from them. Ideas so profound that they can’t be shared. Hmmm, are any words that big or is it simply that some minds are too small? Great post.
Thanks for such an insightful comment Debra. I love how you sum this up that are there really words this big or just minds too small. Yes books should move you, inspire you , make you think and even terrify you if that’s what you want. but the choice should be yours.
I think there just has to be some thought put into it if it’s something children are going to read and part of a public school curriculum. Age and maturity defiantly need to be considered.
I agree that there needs to be consideration on age appropriate material, but certainly from what I’ve read, and from Jeri”s experience, one or two people are objecting when it’s perhaps the subject matter that they object to, from a personal bias perspective. And in public libraries, surely the first amendment allows for any adult fiction to read? (In the case of items such as hard core pornography, there are specialty shops for that ). When one sees that reputable books as I’ve listed above are being banned , then one can see there is something wrong with the system. Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your comment
Glad to find this post via your Twitter feed and read both it and the comments. What a discussion! I don’t think books should be banned, but I wish we would rate them the way we do movies. As a non-mother, I appreciate reading ages on books I purchase for kids, but it would also be helpful to have them rated.
I remember dying of embarrassment the year I bought my mom a paperback that was supposed to be comedic only to have her tell me it had as much sex in it as the Harold Robbins she once came across. A rating would have eliminated that faux pas! (of course, we did laugh about it)
This was indeed a great discussion RoseMary! Very hard to rate books I think though obviously children’s books do tend to have some recommendation eg for children of a a certain age. Giving books a TVMLA type of rating would be even more subjective than films I think. Children mature at such different rates and what they’ve been exposed to already really affects that issue too. Interesting take on it though for sure.
RoseMary, any ratings system can be quite subjective, but some agreed upon system would be helpful to readers who seek such a thing. I remember getting totally dismayed the the movie ratings system when What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams received an R-rating. It contains one F-word, which is probably the nail in the coffin, though the thematic elements dealing with God’s existence or not probably inched it toward and R-rating as well.
I don’t believe books should ever be banned. No one forces you to read a book, and if the “school system” deems a book to be inappropriate for kids then just don’t make it part of the curriculum.
Personally, I like to read a variety of genres and topics that challenge my comfort zone. For example, I’m a big fan of Gutenberg online library and have read a number of the books and essays on slavery in the south – both by former slaves and their owners. There is no way the same language could be used today and admittedly a lot of the references are shocking but it’s foolish to pretend these things didn’t happen and how better to learn about the real history of our country than from the people who lived it? Thanks for the inspiration, and I’ve bookmarked the Banned Book website to explore later.
Challenging your comfort zone is always a good idea. But I too find it challenging reading older material that includes language we now consider inappropriate. Especially when it comes to sensitive issues such as slavery. But we do need to consider when they were written. That said it doesn’t mean to say we’d want to promote them. I really struggled through Uncle Tom’s Cabin for a variety of reasons but ultimately felt it was a book I needed to read for myself and not rely on hearsay.