After news dropped last week about a school district in Tennessee removed “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, because of what school board members called “inappropriate language” and nudity, sales of the book took off.
Today’s Thread: What’s the best “banned” book you ever read? And what was the context? Did you read it in a class? Did you find the book because it was banned? Give the banned details.
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To Kill a Mocking Bird
The Old and New Testaments.
Oh, wait! They haven't been banned. I guess representations of genocide, gratuitous violence, rape, incest, adultery, animal sacrifice, magic and the supernatural, ethnic and religious oppression and division, abortion, and substance abuse are ok if they bear god's stamp of approval.
Grapes of Wrath. Read it in high school, as part of an elective English class taught by one of many great teachers who encouraged us to explore the world through great books.
Even out in Southern California, some parents pushed to have THE COLOR PURPLE taken off the high school library shelf because of some of the same-sex intimacy. I had read it, and my mother had the good sense to read it as well and talk to me about the novel's stunning messages. It's amazing what great harm parents are willing to bring to their kids in the name of "protecting" them.
"Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl". I read it sometime in junior high, and for the first time in my life, I wanted to know "WHY?" and "HOW?" Why did the Nazis hate the Jewish people, and how did good grown-ups decide to do such evil things?
All the best books are banned somewhere. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was one I read in college and have reread several times. It feels like I am being let in on a secret. Most of these books make my brain and heart light up on fire. Are these stories just analogies? They are too real.
Catch-22 - my father (a WW II vet) encouraged me to read it; Was 1970, I was a teen with two brothers old enough to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Our family had many discussions about who gets sent to war, who gets to avoid military service and how military decisions are made and hidden, etc.
Jesus Land. It isn’t banned, yet. A school district somewhere around Indianapolis, wants to ban that book from the school libraries. I borrowed it from our local library to read it for myself. IMO, there isn’t anything in the book that middle school age kids don’t already know, sexual wise. It does shed some unfavorable light on evangelicals though.
After the McMinn county school board, in Tennessee, banned Maus, a Knoxville comics publishing company started a GoFundMe to send free copies of Maus to any student who asks for a copy. When I donated yesterday, they had raised over $40,000 (with a goal of $20,000). I looked today, and donations are over $70,000. Most donations are small ($5, $10, $20) And book shops around the country are selling out their stock of Maus. If anyone wants to contribute to the GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nirvana-comics-knoxville-project-maus
I believe that the objective to ban books in this day is an effort to deny opportunities for learning about empathy. Empathy is not a common value I hear from the folks pushing this agenda -- yet it is essential for a functioning democracy.... but not for an authoritarian leaning fascist philosophy. I remember reading, "Catcher in the Rye."
Angie, here. William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” I read as an adult in search of fine writing and a layered, subtle plot. It is magnificent. Faulkner, a Mississippi high school dropout, made it his mission to capture the emotional lives of the rural poor, unflinchingly writing about race, gender, sexuality, and power.
To kill a Mockingbird - I read it young and still marvel at its depth. My favorite line and moment in the film and book, is in the courtroom; The reverend tells Scout, "Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passing." A display of silent, dignified respect to a man that dared everything to defend on of their own, for them the ones considered the lowest in the community.
Catcher In The Rye - on my own and of course To Kill A Mockingbird also on my own. I think the most controversial book we read in school was The Scarlet Letter . I have often said that the best way to get students to read a tough book was to tell them it might be banned. Nothing like censorship sparks the inquiring mind!!
By the way, Caste, all of Toni Morrison, the 1619 Project are all worth reading.
I read Huckleberry Finn to my sons when they were 5 and 7 with the n word edited out because I didn't want them repeating it. I think for them it was an exciting adventure. For me, as an adult, I was struck by the character of Jim's nobility. He's the only sane adult with ethics in the whole book other than Aunt Polly. I had read it in third grade. I'm not sure why Huck Finn was in a third grade classroom and I have no clue what I got out of the book. Nobody was paying attention to what I was reading and no adults in my childhood ever used the n word, so it went right over my head as a youngster. In those years, in rural Montana everybody was the same. I was 13 when I read Black Like Me by John Griffin because I found it on my parents' bookshelf. That was my first realization that my Montana world was nothing like the world of most Americans.
I have read Maus, although I found it at TCPL, and it was not "banned" as such. I found it made an impression on me in terms of the raw emotion of the holocaust, its survivors, and their kin. I would not suggest it for a less mature, school-age audience. Somethings are best learned with some emotional maturity in place.
Many years ago I read as a trio three commonly challenged/banned dystopian novels: “1984,” “Brave New World,” and “Handmaid’s Tale.” It was fascinating to contrast and compare three visions of radically suppressed humanity brought about by such different kinds of control over human relationships, privacy, our experience of pleasure, and our ability to construct meaning in our lives.
To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it in high school and didn't read it again until I was an adult. Harper Lee's writing is exquisite and since I grew up in the segregated south is definitely struck a chord.
I saw someone mention yesterday that a not for profit website should be created to post all these books for anyone to read. Just my humble opinion but these legislators ought to be far more worried about what kids are doing and seeing online than what they are reading.
"The Handmaid's Tale" horrified me in the 80s (?) when it first came out. But "Farenheit 451" hit me much earlier. I can see us toddling toward that reality now. I did not read these because they were banned, but hope attempts to ban them bring them to the attention of more young people.
To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street
I read 'Les Miserables' (in French) as a high school student taking AP French. My other choice was 'Candide' by Voltaire, another banned book. Les Miserables was banned by the Catholic Church, Tsar Nicholas I, Napoleon III and even the city of Philadelphia...although I was unaware of this at the time. Victor Hugo spun a tale that grabbed me and just wouldn't let go.