Friday, September 17, 2010

Banned Books Week

Books! I lovelove YA books especially. And! Banned Books Week is coming up. Like, soon. September 25th, I think.

In protest of censorship I suggest we all buy a book that has been banned and then read the motherfucker. And tell our friends all about it. Have our children read it if you so deem it "appropriate."

You can find which books have been banned or challenged in a variety of ways, but here are the best ways:

Visit the official Banned Books Week site for a short list. The top ten 2009 banned books list is there, but it's certainly not limited to those ten books.

Also, google anything you're interested in and add "banned." Chances are good it's at least been challenged.

People be hatin'

Really, anything good. Anything thought-provoking. We need to seek information, and a lot of it is contained in some very good, very entertaining, enlightening books.

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Many will claim it is too profane, but the truth is that many are afraid of its political messages.

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, written in "1852 as an outcry against slavery after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act." Abraham Lincoln once remarked it was the trigger for the Civil War.

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
--significant because of its attention to the abuses of the labor market, but was also important because it highlighted the conditions of meat and packing factories, dire health concerns for the public, etc.

But not all books are game changers like this. They don't have to be to be banned. The problem is not that parents don't want their children to read certain books--it's that they don't want anyone's children reading them.

And that's not their place.

It's the fear that is the problem. Harry Potter? Really? For witchcraft? Wha? Harry Potter had a much better message, and in the interest of space I will redirect you here, if you're interested.

There's also too much fear of stoking anti-American sentiments--you know, "some things that are true aren't useful." Or the idea that we shouldn't criticize something even if it's true.

I mean the Texas Board of Education is trying to wipe out anything anti-Christian or something seemingly anti-American from their history books. Arizona is trying to police classes to prevent anti-American sentiments and ethnic studies.

Our patriotism is being questioned because we dare to question and criticize. There are many who want to tell us what to believe, politically and spiritually. What the fuck ever happened to freedom?

They fear that their children will become interested and engage in behavior we'd rather they weren't or didn't--sex, drugs, denouncing Christ. And again, not just their children. Everyone's children. Gotta "protect" them all.

We need to question. We don't get better if we don't have discourse, and we don't have discourse if we censor anything.

Also, many of these books provide a raw peek into our sometimes very uncouth history. And if we don't know our history, especially the bad, we are likely to repeat it.

There are a few books I wouldn't recommend, necessarily, unless you're interested, in which case: have at. I won't judge. But here's my take on a few:

I don't recommend Twilight. It's not that she's Mormon. Honestly, it was the book that got me back to writing fiction. I dug the sexual tension--like a literary burlesque, but still. Sexual tension aside, it's shitty writing. It's lazy writing. Worst of all--and you'll know this if you've read The Host--it's formulaic writing. There's little imagination there. Girl got lucky with her dream.

I don't even care about the feminist-hate on the book. It's the writing I loathe. Mostly because I pick up on styles and accents lightning fast and this stuff stuck on me like skunk for a really long time. I'm still a little stinky.

Girls eat it up because that's exactly what they want. They want this unbelievably out-of-this-world romance. They want their soul mate. They want sex. They want the uber-sexy boyfriend who looks at nobody else, the boy every other girl wants. They like the damsel-in-distress thing. They want to be protected, even if it is too much.

Women eat it up...maybe because they want it too. I tend to think LDS women eat it up because it's acceptable softcore porn (for them). They want sex, too.

But whatev. Junk food reading. It's allowed.

I also kinda hated Catcher in the Rye. I finished it, but I don't get what the big deal is. It was lame.

But, y'know, didn't require a hell of a lot of thought. So, if you're looking for something easy...It's just not that engaging. Some really smart but lazy kid gets kicked out of school and makes his way home and his parents don't know he got kicked out...again. Nothing really happens. He bitches a lot, but that's it.

English is my love. I've ignored it lately, but I dream about it at night. You know. It's more an ideal these days than not, and nothing that good should be neglected like I've neglected it. I'm just angry because I feel neglected too. Also, I feel like the overworked dad whose never home long enough to do anything but acknowledge his kids before tucking them in bed. It requires brain energy, and I'm a zombie.


All that said, I think I might start Mockingjay tonight. It's an incredible series, Hunger Games, and I highly recommend it. Wouldn't surprise me if they tried to ban it, too.

So buy a banned book. Get it used--they can come really, really cheap for decent if not great quality.

Lemme know if and when you do. I'm thinking I'll either get Anne Frank's Diary (read), To Kill a Mockingbird (haven't read), or Fahrenheit 451 (read). Maybe A Wrinkle in Time. I haven't read that one yet, either. Forever by Judy Blume is also a strong contender.

I wish I had more cash.

If you still haven't read Harry Potter (gasp!) now would be a fantastic time to start.


  1. I'm reading Escape by Carolyn Jessop - most likely banned in the FLDS. Does that count?

    Also, I just finished Jesus, Interrupted by Bart Ehrman, which I'm sure has been banned by Christian fundamentalists.

    I was just saying to my husband today how the beginning of my doubt in the authority of any religion definitely began the day pope benedict said Catholics shouldn't read Harry Potter. What an idiot.

  2. Few things make me more angry than censorship. To me, it's one of the only things I view as blatantly, wholly evil. Banning books especially is something I loathe with all my being. It's connected to my hatred of all things authoritarian and totalitarian. Controlling information or ideas is only ever necessary when you can't abide the truth.

  3. As a librarian, and as a reader, Banned Books Week is one of my favorite weeks! My university group is hosting a read-out during the middle of the week, and I intend to collect a good variety of frequently challenged books to display. People so often think of Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover, and don't know that tons of kids' and YA books get challenges--The Lorax, A Wrinkle in Time, pretty much every Judy Blume book ever, The Outsiders.

    Free people read freely!

  4. oh! that reminds me--i want to read Forever by Judy Blume :D

    yesyes. i wonder if our library hosts anything like this. i will have to look.

  5. oh! Carla,

    Anything controversial and challenged and all that good stuff counts, absolutely :D

    I just think this next week--starting the 25th--would be a great time to get another one. Stick it to the man, y'know :)

    Yeah, that was pretty lame of the Pope. Harry Potter? You can't do better? Really?


  6. Wait, was A Wrinkle in Time banned?!? WTF.

  7. @Boob Nazi: Well, I don't know if it was banned or just challenged, but either way it was for its religious "agenda." This site says it's because it presses a too liberal brand of Christianity.

    Fun, yeah?

  8. Awesome!!! totally going to promote this ;)

  9. A Wrinkle In Time also promotes science, acceptance of other religions, and features characters acting out against authority.

    All bad, bad, BAD things, clearly.