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Saturday, October 1, 2011

9 Banned Books That Your Child Should Be Reading

Banned Books Week is typically the last week of September.  It was started in 1982, by First Amendment activist Judith Krug, as a way to keep written material publicly available so people can develop their own opinions and conclusions.  As a way to bring attention to this week, I thought I would compile a list of some of the books that have been banned by school libraries in recent years.  These are books that, as adolescents, many of us read ourselves.

#1.) 'Where's Waldo?'

Okay, I wouldn't necessarily say that your children should be reading 'Where's Waldo?'.  But, in 1993, it was banned.  Turns out, on one of the pages (the one depicting a public beach), the U.S. version of the book had a sunbather showing a bit of a breast:

It was the picture book equivalent of spotting skin from three quarters of a mile away.  You're not even sure if that was breast, or just a heavy guy in a Speedo.  Still, for the sake of the children, the books were pulled, and replaced with a less offensive picture:

#2.) 'The Diary of Anne Frank'

'The Diary of Anne Frank' may be one of the best literary examples of the triumph of the human spirit.  It's the extraordinary journal of a 13 year-old Jewish girl, living in Nazi occupied Amsterdam.  The American Library Association has been tracking calls for the book to be banned, as early as 1983.  Why?  Because it was found to be "a real downer".  A Virginia school district recently banned a revised copy of the book, after parents' complaints that the book included sexual material and homosexual themes.

#3.) The "Harry Potter" Series

Yes, I know there are only five books here...

According to the American Library Association, the Harry Potter series was banned more than any other books, in the decade ending in 2009.  The reasoning?  It promotes witchcraft and the main character has "no moral story arc".

#4.)  'To Kill a Mockingbird'

My personal favorite.  Never mind the fact that Atticus Finch is one of the greatest heroes in all of American literature.  Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel was the fourth most banned book in the nation in 2009.  In the 21st century, though, political correctness outweighs the storyline.  Many parents (generally the ones of white students), have complained of the racial overtones of the novel, saying that it promotes "white supremacy".  Ironically, 'Mockingbird' is one of the few novels that accurately paints a historical picture of a segregated South.  It is so rare to see good and evil portrayed so clearly as, well, black and white, in literature, with all of it's viciousness and cruelty.  With it's harsh language, it is a difficult read at times, but I highly recommend it for any age.

#5.) 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'

If parents today have a hard time with the racial slurs in 'To Kill a Mockingbird', 'Huck Finn' must make their head spin. (rhyme unintended)  Think about it.  Huck's best friend and traveling companion goes by the name of Nigger Jim.  In fact, the "N-word" is used a total of 219 times in the novel.  Was Mark Twain a racist?  Many people today believe that he used that word as often as he did to simply illustrate how awful it actually was.  Twain wrote Jim as a character with dignity.  Huck respected Jim, whether or not he was black.  They were both outcasts in a way.  That was part of the foundation of the story.  While 'Huck Finn' would not necessarily get published as is in 2011, it's still a piece of classic American literature, that lessons can be gleamed from today.

#6. & #7.)  John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath' & 'Of Mice and Men'

Steinbeck's novels have been consistently banned or "challenged" since 1939 and 1953, respectively.  'Wrath" has been challenged in school systems as recently as the mid-nineties, for using the name of God and Jesus in a "vain and profane manner, along with inappropriate sexual references".

'Of Mice and Men' has seen an increase of calls for it's banning in the last twenty years.  Parents not only find the use of racial epithets unsettling, but have also called it a "worthless, profanity riddled book".  In today's politically correct society, people feel that the story "pokes fun" at Lennie, the novel's developmentally disabled character.

#8.)  'The Catcher in the Rye'

Since it's publication in 1951, 'The Catcher in the Rye' has quite possibly been the most banned secular novel on Earth.  The novel has had frequent criticism for it's use of  "obscene language" and "sexually explicit material".  A school in Columbus, Ohio, even banned the book in 1963 for being "anti-white".

However, when Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon, and John Hinckley Jr., the attempted assassin of President Reagan, were both reportedly influenced by the novel to carry out their crimes, the world collectively lost their shit.  Sixty years after it's release, 'Catcher' is still one of the most banned books in the county.  In the nineties, it was the tenth most banned book of the decade.  In the decade ending in 2009, it came in at #19.

If you ask kids today, most don't see what the big controversy is about the book.  In fact, South Park did an episode a couple of years ago where the boys were assigned to read the book, and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about.  They decided to write a book of their own called 'The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs'.  Hilarious.

And, last but not least, #9.)

That's right, folks.  'The Adventures of Captain Underpants'.  It was actually the sixth most banned book in 2002.  Why?  "Offensive language and unsuited to age group."  Now, ain't that some shit?

I have to argue, are any of these books really damaging to your children?  Not any more than watching an hour of primetime television.  And, would you rather have your kid reading an American classic, or watching an episode of 'Family Guy' or 'Two and a Half Men'?  I'd choose 'To Kill a Mockingbird' any day of the week.


The Leafy Cauldron said...

I <3 banned books.

Rachel said...

The one that still gets me is "In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak (who wrote "Where the Wild Things Are"). It's an absolutely beautiful book, but he happens to be nekkid in it, so can't have the kiddies see a cartoon boy's penis or anything! *Gasp!*