Banned Books Week 2022

Banned Books Week 2022

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Debate rages on about book banning. I believe we can all agree that adults in the United States have the freedom to read whatever they choose to read. Our minds are fully formed at about age 21, according to neuro-science.

X-rated, R-rated, and M-rated movies would not be allowed in public elementary or middle schools because they are considered inappropriate for younger viewers.

If we apply the same standards to literature in school libraries, what is the objection?

banned books week 2022

But let’s consider what reading material is age appropriate for younger readers. We can measure reading comprehension. Students learn to handle increasingly complex levels of vocabulary and sentence structures as they age.

What of content? Movies have ratings based on the subject matter, vocabulary, levels of violence, and sexual content. Lately, I’ve seen warnings in movies about smoking shown in them.

When my daughter was 13, she spent the night at another girl’s house and watched Psycho. She demanded to use the bathtub instead of the shower for six months. This tells me she was not  mentally prepared to handle the level of blood and violence in that movie at that age.

I firmly believe our minds absorb what we feed them. Fear, violence, the glorification of evil in all its forms have an effect on the mind.

library

I support choosing books to support the age level of the reader. I strongly object to banning books because someone wants to rewrite history or condemn past cultures and civilizations.

It is absurd to demand historical novels portray the values of today’s society. They cannot. They reflect the values and conditions of their time. In fact, public outrage over Wilkie Collin’s 1859 book The Woman in White led to changes in British law to protect women with greater legal rights.

Let us educate young minds and encourage creativity and freedom of thought without burdening kindergartners to decide on their future sex lives or set their identities in cement.

Teach the Golden Rule–to treat one another the way we want to be treated–along with math, science, history, language, social studies, art, and sports.

Leave out the race-shaming, revisionist history, and vogue social agendas. We don’t allow religion in public schools, so how about if we stop forcing opposite value systems on kids?

We are falling behind other nations scholastically. Less indoctrination. More basic education.

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How Many Banned Books Have You Read?

The American Library Association tracks requests to ban books. Sure, I think we can all agree that the Kama Sutra would be inappropriate for a grade-school library even though it could be considered a picture book. But what if your local public library removed all copies of Brave New World, The Color Purple, Twilight, the Bible, and the Harry Potter Series?

WOULD YOU SPEAK UP?

The LA Times reported that in 2017 the Accomack County school district in Virginia considered removing copies of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from their libraries because one parent objected to the use of the N-word in these books. Has this parent been in a school lately? Or listened to rap music? The casual use of the N-word among blacks makes me wonder–who is offended?

Just for the record, I am offended by the word. But then, I was alive when the word was used as an insult and not as a greeting or term of endearment. In the historical stories above, the characters who use the N-word are portrayed as severely uneducated or hateful, so why not use these stories to teach children about why we shouldn’t use it now? Shall we let political correctness or the opinion of one person dictate which classics the rest of us should be allowed to read?

Shall ladies return to wearing corsets and covering our ankles if a small segment of society decided to return to the good old Victorian era dictates of decency? Why not let the tail wag the dog and surrender to every segment of society’s whims and sensibilities?

I am speaking up because even though a book might offend me to the core, I don’t expect the world to kneel to my feelings. I’m a grown up. I can survive being offended. I’m likely to grumble about things from time to time, but I don’t force my will on others or throw a tantrum when the world doesn’t comply with my demands.

My favorite book has elements of the supernatural, erotic poetry, war, natural disasters, political intrigue, romance, adventure, and more. But it’s banned or heavily restricted in these countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, China (People’s Republic), Comoros, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen. Apparently, the Bible threatens the culture or governments of these countries. I can’t recall extremist Christian-led riots, bombings, or other acts of terrorism endangering any governments, but hey, they run their countries their way. Making the Bible forbidden is their loss.

In America, we enjoy the freedom to read whatever we want. If we don’t like a book, we don’t burn it or ban it. We don’t threaten the author and publisher. We just don’t buy it. We use the power of the free market to support the books we enjoy and treasure. We can, of course, post negative reviews or ignore books that offend us. We allow individuals to decide for themselves.

Judge me if you will, but I firmly believe public and private schools need to consider the appropriateness of books in their libraries based on the age of their students. In a time when student suicides are rising, is it smart to offer books that glamorize suicide instead of offering books on how to cope with depression, stress, and trauma? Let’s expand their imagination and breadth of knowledge while they are young without introducing self-destructive ideas. I lost a friend to suicide in fourth grade. We become that with which we fill our minds.

ARE YOU A REBELLIOUS READER?

To celebrate Banned Books Week, I encourage you to look through the list of the top banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2009. The list was compiled by the American Library Association. How many of these books have you read?

What’s your rebel reader score?

1 to 25 books – Streak of rebellion reader

26 to 50 books – Proud rebel reader

51 to 75 books – Rockstar rebel reader

76 to 100 – full-fledged freedom fighter rebel reader

The Top 100 Banned Books:

  1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
  5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
  9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
  10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
  12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
  13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
  14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  16. Forever, by Judy Blume
  17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
  19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
  21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
  25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
  26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
  28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
  30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
  31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
  32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
  35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
  36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
  38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
  39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
  40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
  41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
  42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
  43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
  44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
  45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
  46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
  48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
  49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
  52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
  53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
  54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
  55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
  56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
  57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
  58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
  59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
  60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
  62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
  63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
  64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
  65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
  67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
  68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
  69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
  71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
  72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
  74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
  76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
  77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
  78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
  79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
  80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
  81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
  82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
  83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
  84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
  85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
  86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
  87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
  88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
  90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
  91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
  92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
  93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
  94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
  95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
  96. Grendel, by John Gardner
  97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
  98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
  99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
  100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

Now imagine your life without access to any of these books because someone was offended and didn’t think you should be allowed to read them.

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.