Open Books, Open Minds

| Friday, October 1

As Banned Books Week draws to a close, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite banned/challenged books. In my 5+ years as a teacher of young adolescents, I'm glad to say I've not had to fight for the right to have a book available to my students, and I've even shared some of these with them! If you're interested in fighting this good literary fight, check out what the ALA has to say.

Three Beloved Classics:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Why? Deals very bluntly with racial issues. Rape. Profanity. (Seriously, who hasn't read this book, or at least seen the incredible movie?!)

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Why? Religious issues. Explicit sex, language, and violence.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The ultimate book about banning books!
Why? Rebellion. Frightening images of totalitarian dystopia.Warnings of censorship.

New Classics for Young Adults
The Giver by Lois Lowry
This is quite possibly one of my all-time favorite books of YA Lit, because it was one of the first sci-fi books I ever read. And it led me to my love of dystopian science fiction. :)
Why? References to euthanasia and suicide. Frightening images for younger children.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Yes, I love this series. I've read them over and over again. I don't care if certain connoisseurs of "real fantasy" consider it trite. It's been a very enjoyable read for my students and me for years. Plus I've actually done lit analysis of some of the books, and found some good writing and allusions within.
Why? Witchcraft and wizardry. Need you look any further? It was pretty bad here in the "Bible Belt."

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Yes, seriously, the book of silly poems by the beloved children's poet.
Why? Because it encouraged children to ignore their parents and not do their chores. For real!

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
This book makes me cry every time I read it. It's great for adolescents dealing with loss/death for the first time. I don't get why it's been challenged. It's a very real book. Maybe that's why.
Why? Children dealing with the harsh reality of sudden death and social isolation. Kissing. Complex family issues.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Another one of the books that never fails to pull a strong emotional reaction from me every time I read it! It's so moving, and I think more people need to be aware of books like this that might help teens and even adults deal with serious issues.
Why? The book deals with the aftermath of a rape. Very frankly. It's a sensitive subject.

Go out and read a book. Maybe even one that might make you think. And talk. And open your mind!!

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."
- Ray Bradbury


Melissa said...

I'll tell you who hasn't read TKM OR seen the incredible movie -- my boyfriend. I know. And he got on my case for never having seen Reservoir Dogs. Psh.

At the library we made a display in which we wrapped some banned books in brown paper and taped a description of the book and why/when it was banned. Kids were supposed to unwrap them at home and then read them, but we actually got some back still wrapped. Maybe their parents saw that they were banned books and forbid them from reading them :-O

Ruth said...

Good post. I believe in parents keeping an eye on their children's reading because (hopefully) they're the ones who'll know best what their child is able to handle. My sister couldn't handle on-screen violence until she was about 12, so my parents would keep an eye on what she watched to avoid having her be traumatized.

Unfortunately, this can also lead to parents censoring some very good books that'd be good for their children. But if the books are still out there, then eventually the children can read them...and that's what matters.

Parents who want libraries/schools to censor books are trying to avoid parenting and have the nanny state do it for them. They may not think that's what they're doing, but that's how it sounds to us. "I can't actively parent my child so I'd like to impose my basic views on all children instead."

Eleni said...

I can't understand the anti-Harry Potter arguments. First of all, I thought Christianity was over the persecution of witchcraft. That's so 17th century. But more importantly, it's fantasy. They're not the same kind of witches that are warned against in the Bible, at least as I understand witchcraft in the Bible. Do these people really believe that Harry Potter and friends are devil worshipers? The only way the books could be a threat is if people believed their children would start worshiping the devil in order to gain Harry Potter-like powers, but since there's nothing in the books to suggest anything about the devil (and I don't think anyone believes devil worshiping is likely to give you Harry Potter powers anyway), I don't think there's any danger of that.

Obviously I'm preaching to the choir, but that just really mystifies me. The same people probably praise the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but what if their children start praying in the name of Aslan? Did they think of that?

Sorry, end of rant. Another book I remember liking in high school that has been on banned book lists is Huckleberry Finn.

Kara said...

I LOVE that idea about wrapping them and writing why they were banned! Sad that some were returned still in the wrapping, though!

Being in education, I feel VERY strongly about parents actually taking the time to parent their children! Parents being aware of what their children are involved in is so important! I"ve got 11-year-olds who watch totally inappropriate TV like Family Guy!

I never understood it either, especially with the Narnia (and Star Wars) parallels. Those were never really challenged by parents as bad. Also, if I see a kid devouring 500+ page books, I'm not complaining, because they're enjoying their reading, voraciously!

catherine said...

i remember at the little christian school i went to (before i transferred out, thank goodness!) not only was Harry Potter banned, but i seem to recall LOTR too (and um, that was written by someone who was friends w/ CS Lewis who was a Christian) never ceases to amaze me. Of course there's always Catcher in the Rye (which mostly is just a whiny teenager...what teen doesn't whine lol) and Huck Finn (which is just BORING). but most of the time, the idea of banned books is ridiculous. there should be banned tv shows that show much worse stuff than those books do! or video games for that matter!

*steps off soapbox* :D

Tabs A. Geek said...

What? The Giver and To Kill A Mockingbird are banned books?

What. The. Fuck.

Those were two of my favourite books growing up. I still reread The Giver, and I'm nearly 25 years old.

Whoever determines these are inappropriate is on freaking crack.

hermione329 said...

just wanted to stop by and say hello.

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