Even if you’re not heading back to school, it’s a great time to read a book. In fact, read a banned book.
Banned Books Week this year is September 22 to September 28. The annual celebration began in 1982 to promote freedom from censorship.
You’ll be shocked at the books that libraries and bookstores have been kept from putting on their shelves over the years, if you aren’t already familiar with their history. To name just a few*, which were required reading when I was in school:
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, 1855.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 1906.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 1939.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, 1952.
To protect their children from the ugly and offensive, parents persist in protesting many noteworthy tomes long after they were first published. In 1977 one school district pronounced The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Nathaniel Hawthorne “pornographic and obscene.” In 1996 another school district prohibited Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville from its classrooms because it “conflicted with their community values,” whatever they were.
Critics have called J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951) unacceptable, blasphemous, negative, foul, and filthy. Some terms applied to other literary classics include trash, violent, sexually graphic, and potentially controversial.
Although just about anyone is able to find just about anything on the Internet, there are those who continue to try to impose their opinion on everyone else. Why not let the reader decide: to read or not to read?
Just last year self-appointed censors attempted to keep Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance by E.L. Grey, out of the hands of the public. Now, I’m pretty sure that the book and its sequels don’t appear on any required reading lists, except, perhaps, for an advanced college course in Women’s Studies. Still, the trilogy has topped best-seller lists around the world, selling over seventy million copies. It will be made into a movie, its success all but insured.
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls’ 2005 memoir, which spent over 260 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, has its share of critics, as well. It recounts the author’s unconventional childhood, dealing with such issues as poverty and mental illness. Yes, let’s keep this book out of the hands of anyone who can’t address these issues head on. Meanwhile, it, too, is being made into a movie.
Can’t wait for the movie? Read a book, and celebrate your right to read. You might gain a new perspective. Isn’t that what books are all about?
© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
For a more complete list of books that have been banned or challenged, visit: bannedbooksweek.org.