It's Banned Book week!! Get out there and read something considered really subversive and dangerous!!
Here is the ALA website with information on banned book week (September 24, 2005 to October 1, 2005. Here is the list of the 100 most frequently banned and challenged books in the last decade of the 20th century.
I started all of this (the mighty Colossus that is Fausti's Book Quest) based upon my realization of how many books appeared on the best ever book lists and the banned and challenged list. I'm not alone in my interest in this. Today, Iliana over at Book-Girl's Nightstand is recommending that everyone go out and read a banned book. There are plenty of really good books on that list. Over at Bookshelves of Doom there is always a ton of great information on the book challenges. Stop over to both sites and see for yourself.
My 2004 reading list has links to my posts to see what I had to say about some of these books. We're talking books that won prizes, and classics and authors who've won major awards. Maya Angelo, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, Madeleine L'Engle, Roald Dahl, John Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood, Harper Lee, the list goes on and on. Some of the books on the list that I've read, well, they were crap, but that is a matter of taste. I didn't enjoy them. I have yet to read a book that I find dangerous.
I love it when people have never read the book, but have heard that someone at some point found it objectionable and all of a sudden they are filing law suits and petitioning school districts and making a great big fuss over what they refer to as pornography. Let's get this straight. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not racist. The language used in the book was the languaged used when the author wrote it. In fact, the book is not racist at all. Huck runs away from home and goes along with a runaway slave named Jim. Anyone who has actually read the book will know that Jim is the heart and the brains of the story.
Did any of these people read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Yes, terrible things happen in it. It's an autobiography. Maya Angelou, an amazing woman and gifted writer had a really hard life. Incomprehensibly so, for me. She had the courage to write about her experiences and how she managed to keep going and become the woman she is today, despite all of the obstacles she had to overcome. This book was sad and frustrating and, ultimately it was empowering. I wanted to protect that poor little girl and then I was in awe of her strength and goodness and resolve and intelligence.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is on this list. Holden Caufield embodied the voice of all the disaffected youth of his time. The tale, although dated, still holds much to offer today's adolescents. Nobody is saying that your children should go out and imitate the book, just read it, see if it interests you, see if it gives you insight into yourself or others.
Go Ask Alice is a total After School Special kind of a book. Anybody remember those? ABC had them on to teach us the dangers of sex, drugs, violence, et al. They showed them, you guessed it, after school, just at that time when kids across the country were popping on the tv. Parents loved these things. Yes, there is drug usage in this book. It's about the dangers of drug usage. It's an anonymous diary about the actual decline of a perfectly nice, intelligent, middle class teenage girl, ending in her death by overdose. It's not a directory of the crack houses in your area, or the drug dealer yellow pages.
Do any of these people know that Toni Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature? Yes, she did. She doesn't write pornography. She is a professor of literature at an Ivy League School. She's not writing titillating, naughty books. She's an artist, a genius, a woman with an amazing grasp of thoughts, ideas and words.
You are in no position to judge a book until you've read what's between the covers. If, after you've actually read the book yourself, you do not care for it, or do not feel comfortable having your children read it, then by all means, don't go out and buy it for your kids. But, you don't get to make those decisions for other people and their children. If you are ruled by your ignorance, maybe you might want to pipe down and keep your thoughts to yourself. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "It's better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." As Phil Donahue said last week (when he verbally spanked Bill O'Reilly), "Loud doesn't mean right."
I was lucky enough to have a mother who let me decide for myself what I wanted to read. She chose books for me, and a number of the books she bought me as a child are still on the banned and challenged list, (go, subversive Mommy, go)and let me choose my own reading material. When I was unsure of what to read, she pointed me in directions that might be of interest to me, but she never told me that I couldn't read something. Because of that, I've read all kinds of books and decided for myself what I like and what I don't.
This week I will be making a point of reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (#4 on the list) and Heather Has Two Mommies (#11). If you have been reading this post and saying to yourself, "Fausti, you're preaching to the choir," then go out and read a book from the banned and challenged list. Pick up Are You There God, It's Me Margaret or maybe To Kill A Mockingbird. Enjoy!