by Maria Schulz
Every year at the end of September, the American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom celebrates Banned Books Week. Why? To fight censorship and help people realize that it’s important to stand up and protest when other people decide that they want to control what we can and cannot read.
It always surprises me to see so many of my favorite books on the most-challenged list:
To Kill A Mockingbird
A Light in August
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Sons & Lovers
The Catcher in the Rye
In Cold Blood
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and (all of them)
The Glass Castle
Brave New World
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Flies
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
I have read a lot of the books on the Frequently Challenged Books List. What would life have been like without them? I know the answer: it would have been much less rich, vivid, and interesting. My interest in reading materials that I’ve been denied began way back in Catholic School. You can read about it here. I’m still shell-shocked from the thumping I took from the good Sister because I had the audacity to read the “wrong” book during Free Reading time. I learned that:
- Free Reading is not free
- When people don’t want you to read something, you should RUN AND GET IT
- Banned books are usually chock full of the good stuff
- If there is a book, TV Show or movie that someone doesn’t want me to watch, I won’t miss it for the world
- No one gets to do my thinking for me
- No one should get to do yours either
I was blessed with some of the most wonderful teachers in the world. They always provided me with opportunities to learn and grow—and THINK. What a novel idea.
My third grade teacher, Mrs. G., stayed after school every day for a month to help me improve my reading skills. She gave me biographies to read, and every day, we talked about what I’d read. She gave me books about Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, John F. Kennedy, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.
Every afternoon, I’d pull a desk up next to hers and we would munch on a snack while we discussed things like vocabulary, plots, sad things that happened and happy things that happened to each person. We also talked about the things that made all of these people great.
Mrs. G. was patient and always interested in what I had to say about the books. Before those days of sitting there and poring over each book, it never occurred to me that my opinion was as valid as my teacher’s, especially if I read the book closely. Mrs. G, and the books she shared with me, helped me see the world in ways I couldn’t have imagined before I started reading them.
This continued for me when I hit the 9th and 10th grades and my English teacher, Mr. Reines, opened up my little world even more by introducing me to authors like Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, John Cheever, D.H. Lawrence, and J.D. Salinger.
The first book we read in-depth was Arrowsmith. It was funny, and sad, and outrageous, and interesting all at the same time. I am still trying to figure out what it was about that book that landed it on the Banned Books List.
Later on, other teachers would introduce me to the works of William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Edith Wharton, Ken Kesey, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jane Austen, and Tennessee Williams. Every single one of those authors can also be found on the banned books list as well.
I ate all of these books/authors up like it was brain candy. I could never get enough! These days, I don’t have enough hours in the day to read every book I want. If you’re like me, you probably run all day long from one thing to another. So, look at this celebration of fREADom as a good excuse to pick up a great book.
Here Are Ten Good Reasons to Celebrate Banned Books Week
- Because you can
- It’s all about Freedom, baby
- No one puts classic books in the corner
- You will probably make someone mad
- Open Your Mind and learn something
- Understanding the way other people think is a good thing
- The brain may not be a muscle, but if you don’t use it, you might lose it
- Once you’ve read a great book, no one can take it away from you
- It will drive the censors crazy
- Book burnings are so yesterday
While you’re reading and learning about new people, places, and things, you should definitely be feeding your brain with good food. Here are 24 recipes that are excellent for just that–including: Black Bean and Salmon Tostadas, Spicy Tuna Wrap, Chicken Cordon Bleu Burger, and more.
So, what’s your favorite banned book? What’s your favorite type of brain food? Do you like reading? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!