Thursday, September 23, 2010

Celebrating Banned Books

RHYS: If I asked you what Animal Farm,The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Scarlet Letter, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Huckleberry Finn, The Diary of Anne Frank, Farenheit 451, Gone with the Wind and the Catcher in the Rye all have in common I doubt if you could come up with the right answer--unless you look at the heading of today's post.

THEY ARE, OR HAVE BEEN, BANNED BOOKS. Books removed from school or local libraries because someone objected to them. And since Banned Books Week starts next Monday I thought it was time to bring to the attention of the readers of our blog that books are still being banned all around this nation.

I was once told by a librarian that in her school system it just takes two parents to complain for a book to be pulled from the shelves. I have even heard tales of Goldilocks and the Three Bears being banned from a school library--because she wasn't punished for breaking and entering.

The reasons the books cited above were banned range from the obvious: the N word in Huckleberry Finn, even though Mark Twain was most sympathetic to the black cause, to the dubious--Anne Frank mentions menstruation, Harry Potter's wizard behavior is deemed anti-Christian, as is the world of Lord of the Rings. The most ironic, of course is Farenheit 451--a book about banned books, about the destruction of all books because the powers that be fear knowledge in the population. And isn't that exactly what school or library boards demonstrate when they give in to extemism and remove books from their shelves?

I read on another post this week an example of how short sighted some of the school boards are, acting out of fear without doing the research. A book called "Making it with Mary" was pulled from the shelves, when it was actually all about sewing.

In my opinion there is no reason to ban a book. If it is considered too mature for a child, then it is up to the teachers to advise and the parents to intervene. If it portrays things that civilized humans would find objectionable it can surely be seen as a good teaching tool, helping young people to make their own decisions about what is acceptable and what is not. In a world in which no book is as graphic as the material seen every night on TV, removing them from shelves is surely a waste of time.

So let all civilized and intelligent readers keep tabs on their school and library boards and speak up when needed. My new book, Royal Blood, is about vampires. even if they are of the comic variety--does that mean that it is being pulled from library shelves at this minute?


  1. My favorite banned book was Lady Chatterley's Lover. The ban was due to one sentence, and Lawrence even used couched language, not like the purposely graphic language of today's erotica. It just proves that the censors have "dirty" minds if they assumed Making It With Mary was sexual. LOL! Sewing!
    I'm starting Royal Blood tonight. Can't wait.

  2. At a recent book signing event I met two women whose book club is reading only banned books this year. Loved that.

  3. Karen, what a great idea!

    Plus everyone knows when you "ban" a book, that just makes everyone crave to read it! I sneaked Marjorie Morningstar from my parents shelves when I was about 13..

  4. I loved Marjorie Morningstar. What an eye-opener to a small-town kid from the Midwest, eh?

  5. I get thoroughly disgusted at people who wish to ban books. If you don't like it, don't read it. They have no business telling the rest of us what not to read.

    To be perfectly honest, if it takes Harry Potter for a kid, who would otherwise not pick up a book, read a 900 page book, yay for him! In this day and age, a kid reading a book is a good thing.

    Okay, off soapbox now.

  6. I'm happy to announce that Connecticut is celebrating Banned Books Week this week. As part of the "celebration," the Stamford Library will feature a screening of the play "Voices in Conflict" and the Hartford Public Library and Connecticut Library Assn will host an event featuring community members reading passages from their favorite banned books.
    "Voices in Conflict." developed by Wilton High School students in 2007, which contains memoirs and letters from young soldiers who served in Iraq, was deemed sensational and inappropriate by administrators and performances were banned at the school.
    Let's hear it for libraries!

  7. My high school alma mater banned Black Hawk Down a few years ago. Reason? The language violated school district policies on profanity.

    The short-sightedness stuns me. This is a true story of soldiers in heavy duty combat, putting their lives on the line to defend our country, and their story can't be share with high school kids because the soldiers had to audacity to curse while under fire?

    Not long after the book got tossed, I met the author, Mark Bowden, at a workshop. I owned one copy of his book, but bought another and had him autograph it. I told him where I'd graduated, so he'd know not everyone from there was so crazy. He laughed, but said the whole thing was definitely a surprise.

  8. My 10-yr-old (6th grade) had to choose a banned book to read and do a report on. She's doing Lord of the Rings and loving it. (The report's due next week.) Yay for schools that don't toe the PC line.

  9. I remember a fabulous scene in Field of Dreams (with Kevin Kostner and Amy Madigan) when Amy stands up and confronts the school board about banning books. She was so scrappy and said everything I wanted to say and more!


  10. How ironic that Farenheit 451 is among the banned. I imagine "Push" will get on the list.

    Having said that, I'm sure I'm not the only author who watches her language in what she writes. Always asking myself: do I need this to tell my story?

  11. I don't use any language I wouldn't use in my normal life, except when it is called for. I once had a character who had been let out of juvenile hall and was angry at the world. Of course he was going to use some bad words, but I had my police detective tell him to watch his mouth. I hate uncessary violence, gratuitous sex or bad language, but I can make the decision to put a book down if it offends me. Not have someone else make that decision for me.

  12. Avery - I LOVE the school board scene in Field of Dreams.

    And when Harry Potter was being banned, I wondered... why?

    The evils of a closed mine... and yet we were founded on the right of free speech.

    Although I wanted to shut down the guy driving through our neighbor hood (past the kids playing baseball) blasting the song that described a sex act in full detail and not very poetically...