Banned Book week is here!
I dislike that such a thing needs to exist… but I welcome the chance to celebrate some of those books that I love, which have made their way to the Banned and Challenged books lists. The freedom to read the books which call to you is important to me. So I love the chance to participate in the Banned Book Blog Party, hosted by Hannah Givens.
No books have ever been “off-limits” to me. I’ve spoken before about how one of our regular forms of entertainment was to go to the library. Mom would let us run loose through the building, the only limitation on the books we checked out being, “will you really read them all before we come back?” I would enter that place like someone stepping up to an oasis, thirsty to get as many books as I could. And I would leave like someone departing for a long journey, arms loaded with books of all sorts.
When I began to develop an interest in Holocaust Literature (at a ridiculously young age), Mom did nothing to stop me. She did, I would much later find out, read many of the books that I checked out, but never once told me I couldn’t check them out. When I began to express interest in writing Mom let me read the romance novels my aunt had written, because here was a published author that I knew. Perhaps some would have said the material was a little advanced for a middle-schooler, but that was no reason for me to not try — and it helped me immensely to be able to read something and say “My Aunt wrote this!” Taking the author off the pedestal and making me realize they are real person, that it wasn’t an impossible dream.
And when I look at the lists of books that have been banned and challenges… so many of them are books that held such important places in my life. I remember once, when I was in High School, writing a letter to the editor, which got printed in the Oregonian (the first time I saw my name in print, next to something I had written, in a non-school-related publication), in response to an article about a group trying to remove The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum. The argument they made (as seems to be made often) was the use of “The N word.” But I had just finished reading this in school, and the conversations we had around the book, the language used in the book, and what Mark Twain was saying with this book had been powerful conversations.
I perused the ALA list of the top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009, and these ones especially stood out at me:
- Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
- And Tango Makes Three, by Justic Richardson/Peter Parnell
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
- His Dark Materials (series), by Phillip Pullman
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Giver, by Lois Lowry
- In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
- The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
- Blubber, by Judy Blume
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- The Great GIlly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
- Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
- Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
- The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
- Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
- The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
- Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
- A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L’Engle
- Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
- Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume.
These books I list, not because I am surprised that they have all been banned or challenged… I knew that many of them were on that list (though there were a few surprised for me Junie B? The Upstairs Room? The Things They Carried? What?!) but I am somewhat surprised that over 1/4 of the list of frequently challenged books in those years are ones that I have read — many of them ones I really love and that helped me in some way. A few of these spark such memories for me, many I own, may even made the Big Move, and survived the purge of psychical-copy books because they were so important. It makes me sad, downright sad, and more than a little upset, that someone, somewhere, believed that they were doing right by trying to keep others from reading these books.
Bit by bit through the rest of this week I’ll take some time to visit the ones that spoke most to me — why I think they’re good books, important books.
For now, here are some other places that are exploring the issue of Banned Books today:
Banned Book Week: And Tango Makes Three. Hannah Givens
Banning Books, Banning Voices: A Banned Book Week Post, Part Time Monster.
For a collection of many Banned Book Week Posts that were published during the week, check out the pinterest board!