Thursday, February 22, 2007

Banned Books

Yesterday someone posted a link to the Pelham Public Library in Fonthill, Ontario. Another challenge was the title. "Take the Banned Book Challenge in time for Freedom to Read Week". Well....I'm always up for a good challenge, but this one got me thinking. Maybe it's because I am reading The Book Thief at the moment, and burning books is such a prevalent topic. Or maybe it is just that I'm the Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm. Or maybe it's that during this time in our country, I am seeing some of our civil liberties stripped away from us under the guise of "Patriotism". But this topic is very near and dear to my heart. Who gives someone else the right to tell me what I can or cannot read, watch or hear?? Why is it that some groups of people feel the need to dictate to me their ideas of "morality" and what is "objectionable"? This country was founded on the principle of freedom. The very first Amendment to the US Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

As a parent, I am given the task of a censor. I don't even like the word, but it is something that should be done for the welfare of my children. But here is the real question when it comes to censorship: Do I think my children are better off not reading the wonderful adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer because the "N" word was used by Mark Twain? Or do I think that teaching them that the word is wrong is a better alternative?? Do I shelter them from "vulgar" language like "damn" or "whore" by taking away such incredibly written Classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Of Mice and Men"? Or do I instill in them a sense of right and wrong so they know the language isn't appropriate? Do I stifle their creativity and imagination by condemning works like Harry Potter because he is a Wizard and against God? Or do I show them Harry Potter is a work of fiction, meant only to entertain....and has nothing to do with religion? Maybe I am a little more lax than some parents. And maybe I expose my children to certain topics earlier than most. But I think they are smart enough to learn what is right and what is wrong....or at least MY definition of right and wrong.

I guess this brings me back to my original topic of banning books. I'm not sure I really HAVE a point with this rant. It just makes me sad to see all the wonderful books that are on the ALA's list of banned/challenged books. It also makes me angry that people take it upon themselves to decide for everyone what is acceptable and what isn't. Even today I read an article that a group of Cuban American parents "kidnapped" a book from the library in Miami until it can be banned. It was called "Discovering Cultures: Cuba" and they felt it was pro-Castro and would like it banned. I'm sorry....but isn't that what Communism is all about....not giving people the freedom of choice? They are as bad as Castro in my opinion. You can read all about it on the 4Freadom blog.

I guess I will sign up for the Canadian Banned Books Challenge. My little way of rebelling!! Here are some of the "offensive" books that I am considering for this challenge:

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (a re-read for me)

  • I know Why Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou

  • Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Witches by Roald Dahl

  • The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales



~Lisa~ said...

Girl! FN Fabulous Post! You must read The Chocolate War and let me know what you think.

Censorship Sucks.

P.S. I'm reading The Book Thief right now, too. It's sensational.

Chris said...

I noticed that most of those books were challenged by parents who didn't want them in schools. What does that say about society? I'm not going to shelter my girl that way. My parents let me read just about anything (unless it was "adult" wink-wink).

My sister-in-law commented to me recently that she didn't care about language in films that she and her daughter (9) watched together b/c "She knows what's right and wrong." I thought this was the right attitude. The idea is to tell/show them the right things so that they know it when they see it on tv or in books, etc. We're the first teachers they have.

Great post Steph!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

You wrote,"Do I stifle their creativity and imagination by condemning works like Harry Potter because he is a Wizard and against God? Or do I show them Harry Potter is a work of fiction, meant only to entertain....and has nothing to do with religion?"

Excellent post! The Harry Potter books are NOT against God in any way. As you say, Stephanie, it's fiction and has nothing to do with religion. The point should be that GOOD triumphs over EVIL in the HP books. "Ban-the-books" parents must think their own children, unlike yours and mine, are too stupid to "get it." Children don't come away from reading the HP adventures with the idea they can become wizards or do the things Harry does.

Reading your list of books, I decided to encourage you to read The Chocolate War, a book that may enrage you or frustrate you, but one that will definitely make you think. Then I get here to the comments page and discover Lisa also recommends this book. Hey, Steph, does that tell you something?

Stephanie said...

EXCELLENT POST! I find it interesting that the people who decide that these books should be banned are the same people who don't even read the books first. I am a Catholic and proudly read "The Da Vinci Code" because I found it a really interesting piece of fiction. I plan on reading my daughter all the wonderful Harry Potter books when she is older.

Margreet said...

Great post Stephanie. This concept of banning books is so foreign to me, I just don't know how to comment. I would like to know WHY someone wants to ban this or that book. Like one you mentioned in your list: "I know why the caged bird sings" by Maya Angelou. I've read it twice, in Dutch, and don't remember anything offensive in it, not a single word.

I have never heard of books being banned in the Netherlands. There are ofcourse the religious fundamentalists, who hate Harry Potter's stories, but they are few. Let those who don't want their kids to read a certain book do as they please, and not invade school libraries and steal them!!! Political Correctness taken waaaaay too far!!!

I do have reservations about some books, but they are based on the age of the person reading it. 'The crimson petal and the white' is a book I didn't recommend to my 21 yr old daughter, because I know she is fainthearted. But if she decided to take it off the shelf, I would only warn her, not take it away. Smart kids with responsible parents can read more than one would think though.

Margreet said...

Me again..

I checked the links you gave in your post, and see that most books were banned because of sexually explicit language. Now I wonder....does anyone give 'adult' books to children?
And then....children see violence on TV like all the time, but reading about love and sex is dangerous for their innocent minds?

PS: I don't consider my 21 yr old daughter a
child...LOL. I just know her.....

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the comments, Lis, Chris, Bonnie, Steph, and Margreet!! This is really a hot-button issue for me. Censonship of any type, whether it's books, movies, art or music. I think if a parent knows what a child is reading or watching, they can discuss through any issues. There are always things I would rather my children not see or hear....and in a perfect world, I could shield them for all the bad stuff. But this isn't a perfect world, and I feel the better we prepare them, the better off they will be!!

Yikes....I'm ranting again!!

Andi said...

Censorship makes my butt pucker like nothing else. I owned and moderated a Yahoo! group that read banned books for about 3 or 4 years. We read some great titles, many of which are on your list.

Right on!

fahrenheit451moderator said...

If you are up for another challenge, the Pelham Library is once again issuing the "Banned Book Challenge."