I wanted (want?) to read tons of books this week. Seeing lists of books that have been banned and challenged I’ve been doing a lot of: “Oh! I remember that book! I should read that again!” or “Oh! I’ve been meaning to read that one!” If I had all the time in the world I would read them all (yes, every single one… I’ve got all the time, right?) But, I don’t… I have rather limited time honestly, so instead I will settle with reading one of them (To Kill a Mockingbird) and explore some memories and thoughts about a handful of favorites that made it to the 2000-2009 top 100 list of banned books. These books spoke to me, for one reason or another, and have stuck with me (even though some of them I haven’t read for over 20 years).
Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling (occult/Satanism and anti-family themes)
I came to these books a bit late, the first few were already out when I started reading them sometime late in college. I love this series, fun stories, and I really appreciate how seed were planted in the early books that become important and relevant books later. I very much admire the books from a writing perspective. But even more than that — I remember Harry Potter being the first books that I saw everywhere. Kids that I knew normally hated reading were burying themselves in these stories. Addictive tales that introduced so many to the magic of reading.
As for the reasons for it’s challenge… I am always challenged by the idea of “occult/Satanism” behind a ban, and know that those who present this reason are generally coming from a religious understanding that I just can’t wrap my head around. As a lover of, and writer of, fantasy stories, where I create magic systems and gods, I don’t think I need to say much about how I feel about that argument. But the anti-family themes kind of surprises me. Yes, there are certainly some challenging families in the stories, but the series can also, very much, be read as being about the power of family — and the power of created families.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (sexual content, racism, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group)
I read this in 8th Grade, as part of an after-school Honors English program. It was powerful. I don’t even remember what it was we were focusing on within the text, but I know a few things still stand out to me, foremost among them the beauty of Maya Angelou’s language. Her writing drew me in, and even through parts of her life experience were very hard to read, the language had a beauty and power to it.
And one of the reasons for this book being challenged is one of the ones that often makes me want to stand up and shake people. HAve you notice how books that talk about race, and a great many books written by people who happen to not be white get on the list for “racism”? Is this a case of “if we pretend it doesn’t exist it doesn’t exist?” because, that’s certainly how it seems to me. No, you can’t talk about racial inequality… you can’t have characters that face racism… that is inappropriate. How does this make sense?
Tomorrow... More of my book-reflections, and an exploration of that stubborn “unsuited to age group” reason.