Preparing for Banned Books Week

First of all, credit goes to lifeofabookjunky.tumblr.com for the excellent image, which I found, unsurprisingly on Pinterest.

Here’s the thing. I can do this. I can read until I feel better. That is my right and my privilege. I can pick up any book, of any style, in any format and read to laugh, or to cry, or to escape, or to wonder. That means a lot to me this week as I grieve and it should mean a lot to everyone, every day.

Next week is Banned Books Week (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/) and the internet is all aflutter with images, displays and lists of banned or censored books. I don’t use my blog to push politics or draw people into debate, but censorship (especially of books) is another matter. This issue is my particular soapbox, so up I climb.

I’ve never intentionally set out to read books that others have tried to censor, but a quick glance at the American Library Association’s list (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedclassics) of most frequently banned books shows that my reading taste must just veer toward the controversial. I’ve read most of the top 20, including such shocking titles as Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Color Purple.

It is no exaggeration to say that my life would be radically altered had I not read the above mentioned books.

Of Mice and Men is the first work of fiction I truly devoured. As a freshman in Mrs. Kirtley’s English class, I pulled apart, outlined, questioned, considered and reassembled this amazing piece of American literature. Steinbeck taught me that fiction could be socially responsible, that fiction could take me deep inside a stranger’s soul and teach me about history. Steinbeck showed me the glory of good writing.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Who can possibly take exception to this book? Scout Finch taught me all about smart young female narrators. (How did that change my life? Well, since I was smart young girl, I could identify.) Seriously, I believe I learned more about courage and integrity from Scout and Atticus than I did from any person I had ever met in real life.

The Color Purple was my first foray into African-American literature, and certainly if I had never read Walker, I would have never read Toni Morrison. The Color Purple opened up a world I knew nothing about and triggered a desire in me to learn more about our own country’s complicated history.

I could go on (and on and on), but I’ll stop here. Instead, I’m going to take a closer look at that list and see what other “illicit” titles I might want to investigate. If the rest of the titles are anything like the top ten, crazy people out there are trying to squash the best books around.

I leave you with some other great images from Pinterest and ask you to consider a “Banned Book” for your next reading choice.

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16 thoughts on “Preparing for Banned Books Week

  1. I remember the first year I taught “To Kill a Mockingbird” and learned that it had been a banned book. I couldn’t believe it. And then I could. A certain percentage of the population will always want to control what we think. It’s our jibe not to let them.

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  2. Great examples and I like the quote Ban Ignorance, not books – if nothing else the list of books shows how far we have evolved in terms of acceptance, but equally there remain many books and writers banned today in many countries which shows how far we have to go.

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  3. I still can’t believe in the 21st century we would dare continue down the path of banning books. I guess that means we have our work cut out for us as bloggers. I say give a banned book to a friend during book banning week. That’s what I’ll be posting!

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  4. Great post! I just peeked at the list and realized we are teaching at least four of these in the high school. I teach Of Mice and Men to 9th grade and 1984 to 12th graders. To Kill a Mockingbird (my ultimate favorite) is taught at 10th and The Great Gatsby is taught in 11th. I am proud to say our district is in favor of these (and many more) wonderful novels. 🙂

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  5. Great post! My thought is that banned books are probably the most important ones to read; if a book contains something so powerful that people are going to such extreme lengths to prevent people from reading them, it’s probably worth investigating. If anything, it will tell you interesting truths about humanity and what we fear/value.

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  6. Pingback: (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: My Favorite Banned Books « alenaslife

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