This coming Saturday begins Banned Books week. Do join me in reading some banned books, contemplating censorship, and the like. Here is a list of the 100 most banned books of the 1990s to get you started.
In this paragraph you can pretend that I’m saying something cogent and insightful concerning my opposition to censorship, by the way.
I can’t see the objections to many of these books, even when putting myself into the shoes of the most censorious reactionary. I mean, I know morons have a problem with Huck Finn using the n-word, but there’s books on there where I just can’t think of the potentially offensive content. It’s bizarre! Why the hell do people object to James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl (#56), more than they object to The Anarchist’s Cookbook (#57)? A kid who flies around inside a big peach versus bomb recipes!
So help me out here. What the hell is wrong with these well-known childhood favourites:
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
…and of course, the classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I’m seriously curious here. Where is the vaguely objectionable content in these?
From another section of the OP’s link, I note the following objections:
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, for using offensive language.
“Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson, for offensive language and occult/satanism.
Where is the offensive language in either? And where the hell is the Satanism? (unless my last sentence counts for both…)
The Handmaid’s Tale is about a futuristic society, a feminist piece. The easiest way to explain it is the tension between the ideas freedom to and freedom from. It is asserted that you realistically can’t have both. In our world, we have more freedom to, ie, freedom to be a prositute, freedom to be gay, freedom to wear makeup, freedom to dress how we please to a large extent, but we do NOT have freedom from rapists, murders, adultery, etc, as woman. In Atwood’s world, we lose the first freedom to gain the second (though there is still government controlled prostitution, etc).
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle - Magic and the occult. Aren’t the nice old women who take the protagonist dimension hopping called witches? The Witches by Roald Dahl - M&O again. IIRC, there are also good witches in the story. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood - This one is obvious: the book is about a Christian Fundamentalist coup in America, and why that would be a terrible thing. Plus, feminism. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - Drug use. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende - Never even read the book, but then, neither have most of the people who try to ban books. I’m guessing the word “spirits” in the title sets off the M&O alarms again. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford - Nudity, as explained by ultrafilter.
No ideas about the rest. I suspect that there’s either a passing mention of sex, sexuality, drug abuse, or the supernatural that is not presented in a clearly negative light.
The Anastasia Krupnik series? It’s been a while since I’ve read them, but I remember them being slightly vapid novels about a brainy quirky kid. And what’s wrong with The View From the Cherry Tree? It’s a young adult thriller about a kid who witnesses a crime and no one will listen to him.
I have a 13 year old son who doesn’t like to read, which almost breaks my heart, because it’s my favorite pastime. I hate to think what would happen if, by some miracle, he found a book that he loved, that he could really get into, that inspired the kind of wonder and joy and pleasure in him that a lot of the books listed have given to me, only to have some teacher or librarian or Public Minded Citizen inform him that that book was Bad and he couldn’t read it any more. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be responsible for my actions.
I delighted Birmingham Council(lovely lefties)by requesting Ten Little Niggers from their back stock.Threw their computer into a hissy fit.They asked if I wanted And There Were None instead.Nope I wanted the original.And got the ticket printing it out ;).I ordered two copies and didn’t collect one(it wasn’t the right version).FOr months after,I got pleasure out of the conversations
‘You realize you have an uncollected book?’
‘Oh OK.Which one’s that?’
‘The Agatha Christie one…er Ten Little…er…um’
Ah the joy of small pleasures
And is Where’s Waldo the same as Where’s Wally?
I’m waiting for ‘Postman Pat and the Machete Incident’
Wow. I can’t believe some of those. I understand why The Joy of Gay Sex might not make it to most elementary school library shelves … but seriously! I read every one of those Judy Blumes during my young, impressionable phase. I think I may even be a better person for it. I read Bridge to Terabithia as part of an advanced reading class in third or fourth grade, and it’s the first book I remember being truly moved by. I had never cried over a book before, and I found myself bawling for hours. I don’t remember even the slightest reference to Satanism, but now I have to get all up in the establishment’s face and go out and buy a copy.
Someday, I hope to have children, and I’m going to let them read whatever they want. Sure, I read all the Nancy Drews in one summer and spent the autumn sleeping on the floor of my parents’ bedroom because I was afraid of crime (what crime, I can’t really remember), but I still love to read, and I hope my kids do, too.
Actually, they’re supposed to be angels. Someone else objected to the character called the Happy Medium, because it seemed pro-occult. The character is a contextual pun- someone accuses the main character of not having ‘a happy medium’, and so later in the story she gets one.
I believe that L’Engle wrote about the occult/medium/witches/Jesus situation in her book The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth. I’ll have a look for it later today.