Friday, September 24, 2010

Celebrate Banned Books!

Happy Banned Books Week!  The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech, yet every year a large number of books are challenged in court and removed from libraries and schools, limiting the access that readers - especially young readers - have to them, restricting our basic rights of freedom. Removing books from public access is essentially a direct assault on a person's ability to choose what they read. This is where Banned Books Week comes in - BBW is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. In a salute to BBW, we will have a sharp-looking display of banned books at the store and, right here, a few of the Warwick’s staff have selected some of our favorite challenged books from the last decade or so, telling you why we love them and why they not only should never be banned, but should be READ!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"Would any serious reader question the place of To Kill a Mockingbird among the great works of American literature? A compelling story with deeply affecting characters, the novel draws you fully into a world charged with issues central to the American experience: the interplay of race and class, the death of innocence, law and order, gender and family. This amazing novel has been challenged repeatedly, in schools and libraries, for its use of racial epithets, for its use at times of vulgar language, and its frank portrayal of rape. I would argue that these challenges point exactly to why this novel is so important  - it is honest, true-to-life and our history, and still able to arouse powerful, indeed, visceral responses."

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
"Twain captures the humor and contradictory morals of the pre-Civil War Antebellum South. Banning this book for racism misses the whole point he was trying to make with his satire. Every time I read it, I find something new to consider."

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
"The banning of books in itself makes me sick at heart. When I scanned the lists of challenged books I was amazed to find In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. That book is a modern classic, a beautifully written true story of random violence in America, timely and important."

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
"From the master of characters, John Irving is at his best. Owen Meany will stay with you for the rest of your life! Anyone over the age of 15 should be able to handle this book. Banned? Really?"

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
"Jeannette Walls proves that success and normalcy can come of and despite family dysfunction, an invaluable lesson in the current social climate. Not only should this book NOT be banned, it SHOULD be read by all."

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
"I’m always appalled when I see that a book has been banned. I mean the Bible, Diary of Anne Frank, even Mein Kampf, these are all part of history! So why did I pick the Twilight books? Well, they too are now a part of history or pop-culture at least, and whether or not you love or hate them, they are a strong part of our current culture. Besides how offensive can you get when the hero and heroine remain virgins until marriage and place such an importance on family? This series was actually banned because it was too racy and too sexual. Go figure."

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
"I can see why a book about steamy pedophilia would be banned. However, the writing is intoxicating, characters engaging, and the tale beautifully told. Humbert Humbert’s obsession for the young Delores is told by him, and the description of the madness that ensues is part of Nabokov’s greatness."

"I've given this a lot of thought - Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter, The Chocolate War - those are easy, smart-looking picks for favorite banned books.  In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak has always been one of my favorite books that always surfaces on the list of those banned every year. Why all the hubbub?  (This is a Caldecott Honor book, after all.)  So the kid flashes the reader a little bit in the kitchen - no big deal.  I'm always flabbergasted by schools and parents who challenge books like this - it's the adults, of course, who are uncomfortable with a little naked boy in a book, rather than the kids reading them.  I know I didn't care when I was a kid reading this - I was too busy reading the awesome story.  After all, isn't that what reading is all about? When I was looking over the handy list of the American Library Association's Most Frequently Challenged Books I also discovered that the most challenged book from 1990-1999 was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  Say what?!  Banned for being too...scary?  C'mon, people.  Go out and read a banned book."

1 comment:

  1. Where have I been not to know about the banning of books? Yikes! Thank you for these thoughtful selections to illustrate the silliness, so to speak, of banning books. ~~Vance