Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Read Banned Books!

Thanks, ADAllen, for the meme.

The name of the game: highlight/comment on the following banned books you've read.

The American Library Association's most challenged books of all time

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou)

"The Chocolate War" (Robert Cormier)
I read this one in my adolescent literature class in undergrad. It's definitely a book for boys, but it has something to offer teens of all sorts about resisting the pressures of authority if personal convictions conflict with that authority. A valuable lesson, especially under our current administration. Oh wait, that's probably why it's banned...we don't want kids to learn to challenge their social structures.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (Mark Twain)
Thanks to my liberal education (haha), I read this in American Literature in college. I was always puzzled by the accusations of racism--the book is about as anti-racist as a book published in nineteenth century America could possibly be. Twain would be both proud that his book can spark so much to debate, and a little sad (maybe) that people are dumb enough to only read the surface, to only see the words and think that's what the book means.

"It's Perfectly Normal" (Robie Harris)

"Scary Stories" (Alvin Schwartz)

"Daddy's Roommate" (Michael Willhoite)

"Of Mice and Men" (John Steinbeck)
This is a beautiful, sad book. I'm guessing it's banned because of violence; however, the novella is a tragic story of friendship and the inability to survive in this cruel world for someone who is different and misunderstood. I cry every time I read this book.

"Harry Potter" series (J.K. Rowling)
I'm a fan. I actually avoided the series in high school because my parents warned so strongly about it (the one time that they actually said anything about books that I paid attention to). I finally picked up the first book when the movies were coming out because all my friends were reading them, and I was hooked. (This is also, incidentally, where I started to realize that my parents' judgment was not absolute, and that perhaps I should start figuring things out for myself.)

"Heather Has Two Mommies" (Leslea Newman)

"Goosebumps" series (R.L. Stine)
I read a couple of these in junior high, and found them stupid. They really were just not my kind of book.

"The Catcher in the Rye" (J.D. Salinger)
Why does the best literature always get banned? I didn't encounter Salinger as a teenager, unfortunately, but when I read The Catcher in the Rye, I realized why so many adolescents love this book and found meaning in Holden's narrative.

"The Color Purple" (Alice Walker)

"A Wrinkle in Time" (Madeleine L'Engle)
I read this many times as a little kid, and am baffled as to why it's on the banned list. I haven't read it for a while, so maybe I should go back and read it again...

"Earth's Children" series (Jean M. Auel)

"In the Night Kitchen" (Maurice Sendak)

"The New Joy of Gay Sex" (Charles Silverstein)

"Blubber" (Judy Blume)

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Margaret Atwood)
Of course a feminist dystopia would be banned--it's too easy to misunderstand Atwood's intention, which is to horrify and shock us into seeing how easy it would be for our world to become like the one in her novel. I'm guessing most of those crying out for the book to be banned get caught up with all of the sex and violence and miss the true point...if they bother to read it at all.

"The Bluest Eye" (Toni Morrison)

"The Outsiders" (S.E. Hinton)
I like The Outsiders. It's another one of those books about not belonging, a condition so many teenage readers could identify with, I'm sure. If they were allowed to read it...

"Captain Underpants" series (Dav Pilkey)
Banned because the hero wears underpants? How silly...I've seen these books and thought they were harmless and cute. My potential kids are going to be so corrupted...

"A Light in the Attic" (Shel Silverstein)
How can they ban Shel Silverstein? The man who gave us The Giving Tree? Man, this book was hard to find in my elementary school library because so many kids wanted to check it out all the time. I'm guessing the silly poems about boogers didn't endear it to parents in the same way that it captured so many children's imaginations.

"Brave New World" (Aldous Huxley)

"Asking about Sex and Growing Up" (Joanna Cole)

"Cujo" (Stephen King)

"James and the Giant Peach" (Roald Dahl) .
I have a great story about this book. When I was seven or so, I was reading this book and noticed the word "ass" cropping up a lot. (I think the grasshopper calls everyone an ass). So I showed my parents. Shocked and outraged, they then petitioned to have it banned from school--in the end, they blacked out all the "ass" with a Sharpie. Little did they know that their act would help create a die-hard anti-censorship liberal daughter...

"The Anarchist Cookbook" (William Powell)

"Boys and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"Ordinary People" (Judith Guest)

"American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis)

"Athletic Shorts" (Chris Crutcher)

"The House of the Spirits" (Isabel Allende)
I've started this several times. Allende is a great writer, and I really need to finish it...

"Slaughterhouse Five" (Kurt Vonnegut)
I feel like a bad English major for not having yet read any Vonnegut.

"Lord of the Flies" (William Golding)
The rule must be "all disturbing literature shall be kept from those of tender years". You know, because kids need to be innocent until they encounter all the world's nastiness in person.

"Mommy Laid an Egg" (Babette Cole)

"Private Parts" (Howard Stern)

"Where's Waldo?" (Martin Hanford)
I was enlighted by ADAllen that this is banned because of wantonly bared tiny breasts. I never saw any tiny breasts, since I was too busy looking for Waldo.

"Little Black Sambo" (Helen Bannerman)

"Girls and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"How to Eat Fried Worms" (Thomas Rockwell)
I'm always astounded by what makes it on the list. Is it because he eats worms? I don't get it...I remember this book being tremendously entertaining and with some sort of good message.


the secret knitter said...

A few of these books certainly are being challenged for ideological reasons, but I'm guessing that the majority are challenged because of what the words are rather than how they are used. Think of the CAP Alert website that inventories all the dirty words and sinful behavior in films without considering for what purpose they are employed.

Michael Kochin said...

One book I think should be abnned is The Giver. Do we really need a lucidly composed children's book that vividly portrays child suicide and euthanasia? There really are some books we would better off without, as Elizabeth Costello tries to say in Coetzee's novel.