Banned Book Week

Mark Shea makes an astute point about Banned Book Week and the cries of so-called “censorship!” that come from librarians every time parents object to children’s literature they deem inappropriate:

I assert that no book is banned if it’s not illegal to print it or posses it. For every book on their ‘banned’ list, I could order up a dozen copies and freely read them on the steps of the police station.

. . . This affected outrage at this straw-man threat to liberty leads people to believe that they are living with a boot on their collective neck. And since most — if not all — of the banned books are children’s books ‘banned’ at the behest of parents, the kids get the idea that parents are oppressive.

[Full Text]

Update: On the other hand, Rebecca has posted a list of books banned somewhere by someone and highlighted the ones she’s actually read. Since I’m kind of a sucker for this kind of list, I’ve gone and done likewise:

  • Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  • Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain [Twain’s chief fault was in not having a time machine, so he didn’t know that the word “nigger” would be completely inappropriate 100 years later, the ignoramus.]
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck [This was required reading in grade 10; apart from being steeped in profanities, not a bad book, although I prefer the works of his assigned in upper grades, such as Cannery Row.]
  • Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  • Forever by Judy Blume
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  • My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger [This Rousseauean hippie claptrap was required reading in grade 11. Crap crap crap.]
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  • Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Sex by Madonna [Ugh. She’s scary enough clothed.]
  • Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  • Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl [I really like Dahl, but I don’t remember whether I’ve read this one or not, so I’m not counting it.]
  • The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  • Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  • The Goats by Brock Cole
  • Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  • Blubber by Judy Blume
  • Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  • Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  • We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  • Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [I got to read this one twice in high school: as part of the expanded reading list for grade 13 modern lit (where it fit in quite well with other dystopian fiction such as Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty Four) and again as part of the core curriculum in grade 13 English lit the next year.]
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  • Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  • Deenie by Judy Blume
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  • The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  • Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [This satirical novel turned out to be more prophetic than the better-known Nineteen Eighty Four by Orwell. Part of the core curriculum of my Grade 13 modern lit course.]
  • Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  • Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  • Cujo by Stephen King
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  • Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  • Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  • What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  • Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  • Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  • Fade by Robert Cormier
  • Guess What? by Mem Fox
  • The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  • The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut [Again part of the expanded curriculum for modern lit. In case you haven’t figured it out, I read the entire reading list for that course before ever taking it. It didn’t hurt that my girfriend took it a semester ahead of me.]
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding [I hated it at first, but unlike Catcher I actually finished it. Apparently Golding’s quite accurate portrayal of children as little savages doesn’t sit well with some parents.]
  • Native Son by Richard Wright [“Whitey’s keeping me down.” Cry me a river, commie.]
  • Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  • Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  • Jack by A.M. Homes
  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  • Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  • On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  • Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  • Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  • Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  • The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  • Private Parts by Howard Stern
  • Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford [Huh?]
  • Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  • Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  • Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  • The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  • Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  • How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell [This funny little book was read to my grade 4 class daily by my teacher.]
  • View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  • The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  • Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Looks like I’ve read 17 of the list (counting series such as Harry Potter as one), so I’m only about 3/4 as dirty as Rebecca.

It’s an interesting list. Apparently, someone out there really hates Stephen King, Judy Blume, sex education, and dystopian satire. On the other hand, I’m also surprised not to see some mainstays of schoolhouse censorship on the list, such as The Wizard of Oz (witchcraft), Twelfth Night (cross-dressing), and The Taming of the Shrew (sexism).

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