by Maria Schulz
I’ve said this before: I love to read. My house is filled with books despite the fact that I also have an e-reader and don’t really need to have printed books anymore. I guess I just can’t help it.
I love the way a book feels in my hands and the smell of a brand new printed book. For me, there’s joy to be found browsing in the bookstore or sitting with my book club, munching on cookies and talking about our latest read.
As Sister Clara used to say, “books are our friends.” I would never write on them, deface them, or just throw them away. Would I do that to a friend? Mostly, no (just kidding. Of course not! Really).
During my most recent quest for reading material, I learned something new: September 22-28 is Banned Books Week.
The organizers of this event celebrate freedom of speech and give a big thumbs down to censorship. The goal here is to get people to read books that have made it onto the list and celebrate the fact that we can read books that we love—even if someone else objects.
I was surprised by some of the books that were actually on the list:
I love the idea behind Banned Books Week. If only there was a parade! We could have giant balloon characters from all the books, like:
- Harry Potter from…well, you know
- Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
- Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye
- A white-coated scientist from Brave New World
- Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird
Plus, we could have floats just like at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The floats could include:
- Edward, Jacob & Bella fighting The Volturi
- Lolita sunbathing
- A homeless man and woman picking through the garbage a la The Glass Castle
- Max & The Wild Things dancing the Wild Rumpus (yes, Where The Wild Things Are actually made the list. Shocking, no?)
We could even find out where the next book burning is going to be, and snatch the books from the flames.
Wait–it’s probably better to follow these less costly (and probably less dangerous) ideas on how to celebrate:
Apparently, I’ve been celebrating Banned Books Week for pretty much my entire life. Who knew?
I talked about one of my earliest brushes with punishment for reading a book that I shouldn’t have in my blog post, Summer Reading. On that day, I chose to read Lolita–and so thoroughly disturbed my 3 teachers that I feared for my life.
The truth is, I never would have completed Lolita if my teachers didn’t make such a fuss about it. So, thank you, 8th grade teachers!
Catholic school was a fun place to learn what you shouldn’t be reading, watching on TV, or seeing in the movies. Why? Because then you just had to read, watch or go and see it. Some of my favorite “banned” items were Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Forever, All in the Family, Soap, The Life of Brian and Annie Hall.
I was too young to understand that I’d get in trouble for reading/watching these things, so when Sister Felicity said one day, “who watched Annie Hall on TV last night?” I proudly raised my hand.
“You watched that movie? I’m surprised at you! What will your parents say when I tell them?” Sister Felicity said.
“They’ll say they watched it with me,” I replied. Which was true.
And when my school handed out a blank list that said, “Tell Us Your Favorite TV Shows,” I should’ve thought twice before listing the real shows. Here’s how the smart kids’ lists read:
- Little House on the Prairie
- Leave it to Beaver
- The Lawrence Welk Show
- Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
- The Brady Bunch
- The Fulton Sheen Program
Here’s how my list read:
- Dallas (I wore my “I Shot JR” tee-shirt proudly)
- All in the Family
- Sanford & Son
- The Rockford Files
- The Night Stalker
- Love American Style
As far as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, where do you think I got it from? It came straight from my mother, of course. Judy Blume books were hot, because you certainly couldn’t lay your hands on them in Sister Clara’s library.
Some of my best “reads” have been on the Banned Book List. Here, in no particular order, are some of the books that everyone should give a try.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Someone once said to me, “Oh, poor Harper Lee. She only wrote one novel.” Yeah…but if I could “only” write one novel, this would probably be the one. It’s an American classic that tells the story of a black man who can’t get a fair trial…the attorney, Atticus Finch, who represents him…and the perils of prejudice.
I can understand why it shook things up back in the 1960s, but today? Really?
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This is my favorite dystopian society novel, and it’s scary how much Huxley seemed to see into the future. “Community, identity, stability,” is this society’s motto, and the result is a cold, detached society that bows to the governments’ every wish. The main character, Bernard Marx, thinks something is missing, and he longs for a different life….
I still enjoy this book, even though there is no English teacher in sight forcing me to read it.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
This book was not an easy read. In fact, when I initially attempted it, I had to constantly reach for my dictionary just to figure out what the heck the author was talking about (remember, I was just a kid). But once I got the vocabulary under control, this book was beautifully written, haunting and compelling. It makes you think…and that’s a good thing.
This book is not for the faint of heart. But banned? Nah.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons & Lovers, both by D.H. Lawrence
Ditto for these two books. I can still remember a line from Sons and Lovers: “in the ebb and flow of her love for him, her love was always ebbing, never flowing.” You should be impressed, since I can’t always remember what I had for lunch today and yet I remembered that line from a book I read about 100 years ago.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to read these books as an assignment in college instead of another book by Herman Melville. They were absolutely scandalous back in Lawrence’s days, and they’re still good for a thrill. Go ahead and read away.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Call me Ishmael! Okay, so Melville is not by any means my favorite author. But if you want to understand tons of pop culture references—and what the heck your teacher is talking about when he calls your quest to get an ‘A’ on your paper your “white whale,” you should read this book.
I can’t even remember anything about this book that would merit its placement on the banned books list. If it was up to me, it would have been banned for being very long and because I couldn’t get out of reading it since my teacher wrote the introduction to the latest edition—which meant I couldn’t bluff my way through the tests.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Does anyone who objects to this book remember what metaphor, allegory, or fantasy means anymore? Yes, there is a lot of violence and some offensive language in these pages.
But…it’s a story about a society that allows its’ children to do terrible things to one another. Pillow fights and “golly gees” probably wouldn’t really work here.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I was pretty surprised to find this book, filled with intrigue, suspense, lying, cheating, and despicable characters, on the list. IT’S FICTION, PEOPLE! The reasons people gave for asking to have it banned included: sexual content, offensive language, and violence. I wouldn’t recommend it for your middle school child, but grown-ups should be able to read it. Then, they should decide for themselves what they think of it, without someone else making that decision for them.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
I will admit, I thought this book was great fun. It was like eating an entire box of Goobers at the movies and enjoying the candy more than the movie’s plot. This is a guilty pleasure, but even this one is not worthy of being banned.
Brace yourself for silly scenes and ridiculous characters (you mean you don’t know at least 10 people that were self-made multi-billionaires by the time they were 26? Really? How strange). College professors can use it to break up the monotony of reading the classics, and also as an example of why you should always hire a professional copy-editor so they can fix your many mistakes.
This is definitely not a book I’d put on any high school reading lists, mainly because I think it’s not fair that High School students today might get to read these books when I had to read such snoozers as The Scarlet Letter (also on the Banned Books List for sexual content—but trust me, Hester Prynne doesn’t get to do any of the fun stuff Ana tries).
Grown ups can and should read it if they want to, if only for the laughs.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Walls’ memoir was such a revelation to me, and her writing was so inspiring, that I started writing my own book. The fact that The Glass Castle was in the Top 10 Banned Books List of 2012 is amazing to me. The reasons people asked for it to be removed from shelves included offensive language and explicit sex.
Personally, I was not offended or titillated. But now, I’ll have to go back and re-read it to see if I missed something.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Great writing and characters you care about are two compelling reasons that this book should never be banned.
Picoult’s books can sometimes be difficult and depressing, and I’m at the stage of my life right now where walking around like a sullen girl isn’t so cute anymore. I might skip it because I want something lighter, or funnier. But banning this book because of bad language? Sexism? Homosexuality? Puh-lease.
The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Every English teacher’s favorite bad boy, Holden Caulfield, has a potty mouth and an absolute disdain for every adult he’s ever known. Welcome to life with a teenager!
I’m sorry, but I don’t see what’s so terrible about a book that deals truthfully with coming-of-age issues, even if it does include some bad language and heretical views. Aren’t teenagers supposed to question everything? I bet kids in high school will still identify with Holden, even if his bad language and sexual issues pale in comparison to the problems they face today.
I still have my copy of The Catcher in the Rye, along with a collection of J.D. Salinger’s 9 Best Short Stories, that I got from my favorite English teacher when I won second place in an essay contest. (That man knew a good book when he saw one).
Mr. Reines told me I didn’t win first place because my anti-censorship stance was too “radical.” The first place essay was published; mine was not. So, in effect, I was banned.
No wonder I don’t like censorship.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
One hundred and twenty-nine years later, this book is still raising hackles across America because of offensive language and perceived racism.. When reading, remember that the language used was typical to the times, but don’t let that bother you. You have to read it to understand why people feel that way. And then read it again, to understand how Mark Twain was ridiculing racism and the people who embrace it.
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers
Far be it from me to tell pre-pubescent girls (Twi-Tweens), young ladies (Twi-Teens) and grown women (Twi-Moms) not to love Twilight. My girls were both swept up by the stories of vampires, werewolves, true love and pure evil, good vs. bad, love and loyalty, difficult choices and teen angst.
I tried to read the books but they just weren’t for me. But hey, that’s what makes this country great. Just because I don’t want to read it doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s a free country—so whatever you do: read it! And read a few other books on the list too.
I love, love, LOVE goobers. So how do you make goobers even better? Introduce them to my old pal, Rocky Road:
So, Hungry Lifers: what’s your favorite banned book? What banned book looks enticing to you (I think I’ll try The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Want to come to my parade? Don’t forget the goobers! Please leave a comment below and let us all know what you’re thinking. Thanks!