Celebrate Banned Books Week

Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading any of the books banned by schools, libraries, and colleges in America. This comes easily to me thanks to my rebellious babysitters and a lawyer mother who taught me to question authority. Mom bought a collection of 100 classics and challenged by brothers and me to read them. We competed to see who would read them all first. So imagine my shock and horror to see some of those classics and other favorites being banned from libraries. I say challenge these bans! Rebel!

While I can understand the common sense of keeping the Kama Sutra out of the kiddie section of the library, I find it odd that books that were recommended reading a decade ago are considered too challenging for oh-so-tender young, easily offended minds of today. A generation familiar with grisly television shows, movies, and video games, is to be protected from Tom Sawyer, for example. Tom Sawyer uses language deemed ‘racist’ even though in the context of the story it decries the injustice of racism. However, any rapper can shout the same n-word and his use of the word is heralded as ‘free speech’ and ‘self-expression.’ That same rapper can use the word in the context of demeaning women, and promoting violence, but context doesn’t matter? Such artistic and cultural hypocrisy is baffling.

I have favorites among the repeat-offenders in America, those books banned year after year. Here they are in alphabetical order.

  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford

The number one, most banned book world-wide is the Bible. In Muslim countries, such as Uzbekistan, Iraq, Yemen, Maldives, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iran people caught with a Bible are often jailed, beaten, raped, shot to death, or beheaded all in the name of Sharia Law. Why? What do they fear from a book that teaches above all to honor God and to treat others as you want to be treated? In North Korea the Bible is banned because leaders fear Christianity will undermine communism. Why do these leaders fear knowledge? Look at any dictatorship in the world and we find the people have been disarmed, the educated are rounded up and imprisoned, and newspapers and television stations seized. What do these book-banning countries fear? Knowledge.

Knowledge is power. –Sir Francis Bacon (1597)

So pardon me if I don’t care as much about the great population of OFFENDED tender souls who seek to ban Harry Potter because they fear it might create interest in witchcraft. I’ve read the whole series. If my Christian child wants to train an owl to deliver letters, I say let her try. The Harry Potter series is really about courage, loyalty, friendship, growing up, learning the difference between right and wrong, and standing up against wrong. I read The Wizard of Oz, but I had the common sense even as a child to understand that I couldn’t get to Oz by standing out in the path of a tornado. Are children today so dumb that they cannot distinguish fantasy from reality?

How far will we take this political-correctness nonsense? Lest ANYONE, ANYWHERE find offense, shall we ban all books? Shall we stop discussing controversial topics? Shall we ban all cookbooks because vegans, or gluten-free dieters might get their feelings hurt? Shall we ignore the horrors of history because we could be offended? How on earth do these book-banning, chronically-offended souls make it through the day? Shrieking for fairness is like spitting into the wind. To the easily offended, I say, “Wake-up cupcake. The world isn’t going to stop spinning for you.”

I believe Harper Lee addressed prejudice in America in a way that changed the hearts and minds of readers. I’ll bet bigots were offended by the story. Good people were offended enough to drag the topic into discussions at work and at home and in congress. In 1859 The Woman in White by Wilke Collins challenged the British legal system by demonstrating through a story how truly horrid life could be for women because they had no rights. The story awakened the nation to change their laws.

Books represent the ideas of people. Books also document the religious and moral teachings of various faiths. Let us teach our children how to think for themselves, how to evaluate the logic of an argument, and how to discern good from evil. Arm them with knowledge and a curiosity for understanding. And if our children are offended by a book like Where’s Waldo?, let’s teach them to grow thicker skin so they can face the real world.