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Author Topic: Dare to Read: It's Banned Books Week!  (Read 6500 times)

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October 04, 2012, 02:09:55 AM

paint it Black

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Celebrate the freedom to Read!

Thirty years ago, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers and the American Booksellers Association joined together to highlight titles that had made headlines for attempts to ban or otherwise keep them from the hands of readers.  Every September since then, they create awareness about the importance of unfettered access to books by holding Banned Books Week.  Does your community observe Banned Books Week in any way?  Will you celebrate the week yourself by reading one of these controversial books?

Here are the Top Ten challenged books for 2011, as reported by the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom:

1.    ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
       Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2.    The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
       Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3.    The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
       Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4.    My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
       Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5.    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
       Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6.    Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
       Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7.    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
       Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8.    What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
       Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9.    Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
       Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10.  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
       Reasons: offensive language; racism

Does this and the other lists of banned or challenged books on the banned books site include the kinds of books that you regularly read?  Are you surprised at some of the titles (even the Harry Potter series is here!) that you see included on these lists?  Are you surprised that the effort to restrict access to books continues in the 21st Century?

What did you think of some of the reasons that are given for restricting these books?  Do you think that it is ever justified to do so?

Do you have a story to share of an experience with a banned book; have you ever been prevented from reading a particular book?

Do you  have a favorite Banned Book?

As a highlight of the 2012 Banned Books Week event, the American Library Association has invited readers to participate in a Banned Books Virtual Read-Out.  Click here to see author Stephen Chbosky support Banned Books Week by reading and explaining the origins of a poem included in his frequently-challenged book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  (And don't forget to join our new Book Club Cuppa when our discussion of this book begins on October 15!  :) )

Share any other thoughts you have about the Freedom to Read right here!



Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
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October 04, 2012, 04:15:08 AM
Reply #1

wordsaremagic

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The idea of censorship just irritates me down to the core. But, do I think "restrictions" should ever be applied? That's far too general a question to be meaningful. If a fifth grade teacher reads to his or her class a clearly adult adult book, for example one that we are currently discussing here in Discussion Station, The Casual Vacancy, I might have a problem with that. Would that make me a "book banner"? I do not think so.
If parents choose to allow the child to read the book, well, that is a different matter.
The same applies when libraries must make decision about how to spend their ever shrinking financial resources. Unlike the Library of Congress, they cannot buy everything and must make decision based on the needs and wishes of their communities. That is especially true because the library belongs to that community. These are not easy decisions for librarians to make.
On the whole, I do not mind books being challenged. A book everyone agrees upon, probably isn't worth reading to begin with.
We should all have access to express our grievances, even someone like Laura Mallory, who has fought against the Harry Potter books in many courts. She must be given clear access to due process, although I disagree with her profoundly. So the fact that a book is "challenged," is not, for me, a problem, as long as the government doesn't step in to prevent the sale and distribution. I understand that libraries, especially school libraries, must make hard decisions, so rather than issue blanket statements about challenges, I would desire to examine them on a case by case basis.
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October 08, 2012, 08:10:39 PM
Reply #2

Kickassnoodle

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Well, I don't live in the US, so I really never had a problem with the Banned books phenomenon. A Catholic school library in my town houses Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and such; and as far as I know nobody ever had a problem with any book being placed in there. That being said I feel it's very, um, unjust to try and prevent any book from reaching school libraries. I mean, it's one thing when parents take care of what their child reads, but it's quite another when they want to prevent other people, other children from reading them. Especially because the kinds of books that are most often banned/challenged are just the sort of books I like to read. I like books that make me think and question things, I like uncomfortable topics and, um, drastically (un)realistic imagery ;D And I also like reading about other magical worlds because I like to escape this one from time to time.
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October 10, 2012, 03:58:15 PM
Reply #3

wordsaremagic

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http://www.flavorwire.com/335428/15-scathing-early-reviews-of-classic-novels#2
“The Concord public library committee deserve well of the public by their action in banishing Mark Twain’s new book, Huckleberry Finn
on the ground that it is trashy and vicious. It is time that this influential pseudonym should cease to carry into homes and libraries unworthy productions… The advertising samples of this book, which have disfigured the Century magazine, are enough to tell any reader how offensive the whole thing must be. They are no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.” From The Springfield Republican published in The New York Times, 1885.
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October 21, 2012, 09:10:40 AM
Reply #4

Lucette

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I took To Kill a Mockingbird in school.

What about Robert Munsch's Good Families Don't about a certain form of gas personified as a monster - I read that one and it was banned in a few places.

In Canned Lit, an introduction to Canadian books for people who have never read any, Allan Gould successfully argued that Northrup Frye's The Great Code said basically the same things as Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, only about Christianity.  Read both.  Should note that Gould also argues, less successfully, that if an American had written Anne of Green Gables that Anne, being an orphan, would have been accused of murdering her parents.

I think some common sense should be used since a teacher has a certain number of books which fit the criteria of sentence structure and issues - that it not be total whitewash and not be total stereotype but present people as people a bit more.  If a story is worth telling, it is worth telling warts and all.  And note that a kid is in a class, not just with their friends, but with people who either don't like them much or who wish to gain status by putting someone else down.  One should not do anything that gives ammo to bullies.

Huckleberry Finn both gives ammo and takes ammo away - more the latter than the former.  Though, if one has another book that deals with the same issues at the same reading level in a better way, teach with that one instead.  I would not recommend X-Men or Gargoyles as a replacement, though both deal with issues of racism without singling out one race but with some cost to the historical context. 

We too One Flew over the Cookoo's Nest in school and they showed us the movie.  As a girl (might as well admit that much about myself), the only images I had was the Umbridge-like nurse, who was the enemy and those other women who were not part of the group, they were more like groupies, to be generous. I would not say ban it, but if one needs to use that book, the next one should have strong female characters that the girls can see themselves in without feeling worthless.  Also, it may be a good idea to bring up that misogyny used to be more sanctioned in society then than it is now.  It was a time when there was a backlash against strong independent women and the desire for women to be more submissive and undemanding.

Quote
The same applies when libraries must make decision about how to spend their ever shrinking financial resources. Unlike the Library of Congress, they cannot buy everything and must make decision based on the needs and wishes of their communities.

I have no idea what is kept in the Library of Congress - though I presume that some of its contents have been there a while.

School libraries sometimes get donations of books - and may decide which ones to keep and which ones are too whitewash and dated to be of any use or interest to students to keep (ie one about the inventor of the eight-track).  In Canada, if they were buying books, Canadian authors would gain some priority just because students are bombarded daily with American content.

It seems to me that, donated or bought, parents raise their objections later after the book is already there.

Think that someone raised objections to Linda De Haan's King & King somewhere, but can't remember for sure.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2012, 09:29:43 AM by Lucette »
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October 21, 2012, 11:23:48 PM
Reply #5

merrythought

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...One Flew over the Cookoo's Nest...  Iwould not say ban it, but if one needs to use that book, the next one should have strong female characters that the girls can see themselves in without feeling worthless.  Also, it may be a good idea to bring up that misogyny used to be more sanctioned in society then than it is now.  It was a time when there was a backlash against strong independent women and the desire for women to be more submissive and undemanding.
To me, this one of many reasons to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in school.  At some point in their lives, students will encounter misogyny in the real world; if discussing this aspect of Cuckoo's Nest better prepares them for this eventuality, I think that's a good thing.

The idea of banning a novel as beautiful and culturally significant as To Kill A Mockingbird astonishes.  It faithfully depicts an important time in American history, complete with the social dilemmas of the day; further, it presents a forgiving and hopeful attitude about humanity without seeing human nature through rose-colored glasses, but realistically.  It's certainly book from which young people can and do learn wisdom and empathy.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 12:18:19 AM by merrythought »
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November 09, 2012, 05:42:55 AM
Reply #6

Lucette

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Merrythought - agree, but there are just so many books out there with misogynist themes.  Have not read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (neck problems now) but, from what I've read about it, it would deal with the issue of misogyny better while showing also a strong female character.  Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing would also be better for dealing with the issue of misogyny - though it is a book based on a play and does make fun of men a bit.

I think what makes To Kill a Mockingbird so good is that it is told through a child's voice.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2012, 05:46:07 AM by Lucette »
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November 09, 2012, 08:22:13 PM
Reply #7

wordsaremagic

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[...]
Huckleberry Finn both gives ammo and takes ammo away - more the latter than the former.  Though, if one has another book that deals with the same issues at the same reading level in a better way, teach with that one instead. 
[...]
I would argue that there simply IS NO better book about the American experience of slavery and prejudice.
I find myself agreeing with Ernest Hemingway:
"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."
 Green Hills of Africa
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November 12, 2012, 12:13:19 PM
Reply #8

atschpe

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Not living in the US, like Kickassnoodle, book banning isn't that apparent here. However, it has had its own kind of influence here: Hitler's  "Mein Kampf", was banned for quite a while here in Germany. Understandable perhaps at first sight, one should not forget that banning something makes it special and even pushes people to then just get a hold of it, because they shouldn't. And thus the book is not only read secretively but likely with the wrong attitude, quickly becoming food for rebellion or "wrong" insight. Perhaps I should not be so surprised that the neo-nazis movement is more and more apparent. And for the record, I have read it (no worries, it wasn't ban then anymore), and I am glad I did, as I can now more fully grasp the man behind that war. I can no longer call him dumb or a maniac, true, but I have seen how brilliance and insight can so easily be warped into hatred and wrong decisions. It is not a fun read, but very imformative. And under the right guidance it could help us recognise and realign developments before they go off track.

Instead of banning books why not indicate books to be read under guidance (by a parent or teacher)? We do not read books to just suck up the information and believe it, period. No, some books are there to make you think, make you react to them, to allow you to learn why you disagree with a notion. Books can teach you about how people think and act, and why they suddenly go off the beaten track and do "bad" things. With the help of guidance the reader can learn to really look past words and notions and find meaning and lessons, whether personal or global. But then again, in our fast paced society we have no time for helping another so it's best to just ban the book right?
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 12:15:30 PM by atschpe »
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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November 13, 2012, 04:46:58 AM
Reply #9

HealerOne

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I could never understand banning books. Books contain thoughts and thoughts - well - how can you ban thoughts? If you feel that books full of imagination need to be banned? Banning imagination on so many levels is horrible and destructive to all. I think you have a good idea atschpe,  if you really have a problem with a book then have a list that suggests parental guidance. I remember reading books well above my level of understanding as a kid, but found a good dictionary or a companion commentary was very helpful in giving an understanding of the underlying message of the book.

In this day and age - it would be easy enough for a younger reader to Google some reviews or critiques to help sort out what the author is trying to say.  Goodness knows there are plenty of situations when children/young adults (and yes even adults!) get in over their heads and need some help to figure out what the heck is going on. But those experiences help us all to grow! How can we fail to give this gift to everyone? The chance to learn something new and broaden our world? Banning books isn't the answer - being willing to be a good guide and open to discussing anything is what is needed. That's called interactive teaching and anyone can do that!
« Last Edit: November 13, 2012, 04:48:46 AM by HealerOne »
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November 16, 2012, 10:10:57 PM
Reply #10

RiverSpirit

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I didn't ever think that banned books were an issue in Australia. I decided to have a look and was amazed at what I found.

Here are some to of the books that have been banned in the past in Australia:

Jackie Collins, The stud (banned 1969)
Jackie Collins, The world is full of married men (banned 1968)
Ernest Hemingway, A farewell to arms (banned 1931–1937)
Barry Humphries, The wonderful world of Barry McKenzie (banned 1968–1971)
James Joyce, Dubliners (banned 1929–1933)
James Joyce, Ulysses (banned 1929–1937, restricted 1941–1953)
George Orwell, Down and out in Paris and London (banned 1933–1953)
George Orwell, Keep the aspidistra flying (banned 1936–1954)
Harold Robbins, The carpetbaggers (unabridged edition banned 1961–1971)

and that's just a few of them.

The one that changed things ... J.D. Salinger, The catcher in the rye (banned 1956; ban lifted after copies seized from Commonwealth Parliamentary Library 1957). Apparently the librarians that worked for the government did not know it was banned and in 1958 a review of the rating of books was undertaken.

  
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November 24, 2012, 09:08:29 PM
Reply #11

JaneMarple9

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I've never been a classical "banned book" reader. I think I read Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer when I was younger, but I don't think I saw any really "banned stuff" in the stories. I've never had the opportunity/inclination of reading "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and "Catcher in the rye" which I know deal with difficult subjects as well.
The series of "banned books" I know the most about is, obviously, the Harry Potter series. I totally "get" why some people have been in uproar about the series, but to me it was a wonderful series of books, nothing more, which enlightened my reading experience! :D
Personally, I think when people try to "ban" something, it only encourages certain people to do whatever is supposed to be banned. Nothing wrong with "banned books" in my opinion :)

"There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with a really big library"
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September 23, 2013, 01:26:05 AM
Reply #12

paint it Black

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It's the naughtiest reading week of the year!  8) Ready to get rebellious?  It's time to choose a book to read for this year's Banned Books Week!  I'm still trying to decide on one.   I'd like to choose one from this list of Banned and Challenged Classics.  I'm leaning toward Lolita.

Will you be reading a special book for Banned Books Week?  Do you have a favorite that you would recommend to someone else?

Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
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September 24, 2013, 01:34:03 AM
Reply #13

RiverSpirit

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I had no idea I had read so many banned books! I have had Where Angels Fear To Tread in my Kindle for ages.Might be time to start it.
  
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September 24, 2013, 09:43:28 PM
Reply #14

CallMeSeverus

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 :hermionelibrary:

... thinking I need to find myself a banned book to read!  :snape:
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September 24, 2013, 10:49:22 PM
Reply #15

Dreamteam

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I had no idea I had read so many banned books!
Me too  :) - quite a few on that list are ones I've read, some of them while in school, although most of them were never banned in the UK, thankfully.  So I might read one that was, Lady Chatterley's Lover, which has been on my To Read list for quite a while, although I need to finish Black Beauty first - quite a contrast,  ;D

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October 04, 2013, 04:20:54 PM
Reply #16

Kickassnoodle

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I haven't read that many of the books on that list (I remember 9 for sure, and I read one of Hemingway's books, but I can't remember which one  :fredgeorge: ), however, The Clockwork Orange is one of my all-time favourite books, I love the way it explores violence and free will and stuff.

paint it Black, Lolita is a fascinating book, which isn't to be confused with, well, enjoyable in the traditional sense of the word. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not going to do it again - it's a very uncomfortable book. Took me a while to shake it off. I can see why some parents wouldn't want their kids to read it, and yet, that doesn't justify them trying to remove it from libraries altogether. I'm sure some parents think it's better if their kids are educated about things like that by books and, ideally, conversation in class or at home, rather than be ignorant.
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October 08, 2013, 04:34:41 AM
Reply #17

paint it Black

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I haven't read that many of the books on that list (I remember 9 for sure, .....
I think I've also read only about 9 from this particular list, and strangely enough, most of them are not what I would call favorites, except for Slaughterhouse-Five (hmm it's been ages since I've read it ... might be interesting to pick it up again sometime...).  Oh wait, I also liked The Catcher in the Rye.  Still, there are several more of these that I'd like to read, not because they are banned classics, but because they are classics that I've been wanting to read!

paint it Black, Lolita is a fascinating book, which isn't to be confused with, well, enjoyable in the traditional sense of the word. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not going to do it again - it's a very uncomfortable book. ....
Kickassnoodle, "uncomfortable" is a good choice of word to describe this book!  It seems like the first quarter of the book is mostly filled with the protagonist drooling over young girls.  ??? As a reader I felt I had to decide if I was going to give up on this book or continue to be creeped out by it.  I decided to give it a go, and have now entered the stage where I am curious to see what happens next.  I am always drawn to a book where the characters develop throughout the story, and I think there is a possibility of that happening here.  We'll see!  For the first part of the book though I was wishing that I had chosen the same banned book that Dreamteam had chosen instead.

How is everyone else enjoying their banned books?  Been scandalized yet?  :scared:

Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
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October 09, 2013, 12:54:41 PM
Reply #18

Kickassnoodle

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Well, I stayed up past my bedtime and finished Brave New World yesterday :hermioneread: On this day and age, I didn't find much to be scandalised about, really. The matter-of-fact attitude most characters have towards human sexuality was actually quite refreshing (it just struck me as a bit strange that there appeared to be no LGBT folks in that future where everyone is so unconcerned about who everyone sleeps with - I guess it had to be thrown out to get the uniformity of the population). However, the book was disturbing, all right, on quite a deep level too, which to me, is one of the sign of a good/great book. Even though, just to be clear, I don't think that Brave New World is all that great as a piece of literary art, it works as a philosophical work - I don't quite know what to make of it ;D

And yeah, paint it Black, there are quite a few books on that list I want to read as well because they're classic. In general, a book's status as a banned book isn't of itself an inducement for me to read it. However, I do get a certain added satisfaction in defying the general closed-mindedness of a certain part of the population  :fredgeorge: It's also an indication that the book deals with important but often not-talked-about issues which makes it a great springboard for opening up a conversation, not to mention that I just simply like reading uncomfortable books.
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October 12, 2013, 10:12:12 PM
Reply #19

varza

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I originally came here because I wanted to discuss banned books - especially since one of my favorite books "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman was just suspended in a school in NM because of 1, yes 1, parent complained about it. I was a bit shocked because I couldn't understand why they were upset because while there is some language in it, the book was being read by high school students. But it seems a sex scene is the big upset because it is considered graphic and happens to be adulterous. (here is the article: http://www.alamogordonews.com/alamogordo-news/ci_24292499/parental-complaint-spurs-suspension-books-use-at-alamogordo

I am a bit curious because it was stated that the book is considered recommended or required reading list for the students classroom. Maybe I am wrong but usually what books are going to be read in class are given to the student at the beginning of the year - with a syllabus. They are calling for parental waivers to be signed to allow the books to be read - does this mean that if a parent doesn't sign that the student will be excused from reading the book? The likened the idea to watching movies - but often movies are not required for assignments in the classroom (at least not 20 years ago when I was in school). But my issue is - shouldn't the parents had taken the time at the beginning of the year and read over what their kids would be studying in school?

I didn't get to be read any of the books for banned book week because I have an overabundance of reading right now with school - of course, if someone read it I wouldn't be surprised if The Odyssey wouldn't be banned or my textbook "World of Myth". But I have read most of the ones of the list. Some of my favorite books of all time are "banned" books. Of course, I consider banning books to be ridiculous and closed minded.
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