Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Read Something Banned

It's banned book week; not ban a book week.  I never dreamed that people would still be banning books in a country based on free speech and free press, but they do.  I am not talking about monitoring what your kids are reading and making sure it's appropriate to the reading level and age.  No, I am talking about the banning of books for others.  It still happens in this country.  I would think, if nothing else, these self-announced consciences of the masses would figure out that the best way to get some one to read a book is to make it illicit.  In all honestly there are plenty of books that have been banned that would have been barely read or would have fallen out of publication years and decades ago if it wasn't for the folks who want them gone.

As a former English instructor, there is virtually no book, short story or movie I used in the classroom that hadn't been banned somewhere.  I am talking about real attacks on our moral fiber like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Scarlet Letter, and The Hobbit. The banners come from every spectrum from the right to left and from the moral majority to the born again.  Such actions have made writers like R.L.Stine stars.  I mean Stine's work is written as high-interest, low challenging material for middle school boys. It is far from great literature, but the banners of all things immoral have kept the books in publication and growing for years.

I still remember my first banned book.  Not the first one I read, but the one that a group of parents had taken from our hands when I was in high school.  Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon was the book.  In all honesty, not one of us in the class would have probably read the book except for enough to skim it to pass quizzes.  As soon as it was taken us, the book became the singular best seller at the book store in the nearest town.  We read it to see what it was that would completely demoralize our young minds.  The book was one of those late '60s books that became a mediocre movie in the early '70s.  It was and is a long way from a timeless classic.  The offending piece of the novel that got it banned to protect our child-like minds was that at one point one of three housemates, a paraplegic, touches the breast of another of the housemates, the acid-scarred Junie Moon.  That was it.  The book for some reason briefly caught a few people's attention. My parents thought the whole thing was rather dumb. I remember little else about it except that it was forbidden fruit.

Banning books is a bizarre act.  I remember the student who didn't want to read 1984 and convinced her parental unit that the book was inappropriate.  The parent did the smart thing and rather than trying to get the book banned asked for an alternative.  As was my policy, I complied with the request.  The irony of this was that just a year or so later, the student wrote a thesis paper on the book for an advanced placement class.  I think what happened was she discovered that her friends were shocked and amazed by the book and she ended up reading it anyways.

Then there was the principal who was concerned about a number of complaints administration had received about Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist.  In the years I taught the book, which did have a strong sensual scene, I never once had trouble with a book because I always prepared the way for the book and made it clear that the book with its ties to Midsummers Night's Dream was worth the read as both modern fantasy and dark fantasy. It also was frequently a class favorite.  I hadn't taught the class for years at that point, although I chose it for the original curriculum.  It did remain as an occasional alternative, but as a class book it was dropped. Not so much banned as not battled for.

I also recall the Sunday school teacher who announced how  The Lion King was terrible and awful for children because it had talking animals and the son who sees his father in the heavens.  It never occurred to her what an excellent teaching tool this would be for teaching something like -- oh, I don't know, some other guy and his dad.  She also was blissfully unaware that The Lion King was inspired by the horribly immoral play Hamlet.

Okay, so now you know the secret.  If you need your kid to read Scarlett Letter just tell them they can't.
So here's a couple of book lists: 100 most challenged and banned books in the past decade.
100 most challenged and banned books from the '90's.
and finally a list of Classics that have been challenged and why.

Please take a time and enjoy being a rebel.