Banned Books Week!

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I’m back! Today I actually have something that I want to talk about, something that I’ve recently learned about and just can’t understand: banning books.

Throughout America there is currently a bit of an uprising in the reading community. Different places throughout the country are attempting to ban books from schools and entire cities, and sadly it seems like there is a decent amount of support to make it happen. Fortunately, the last week of September is known as Banned Books Week, where people can show their support of keeping these books somewhere with immediate access, and promote the education of long-time masterpieces in the American culture.

One of the most controversial books right now is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Why? Because it uses the word “nigger” frequently throughout the book. While I want to stress that it is never okay to use that word, ever, I also don’t think it’s a word that we, as a society, should pretend never existed. For hundreds of years black people were brought from their homes in Africa to a place where they were treated less than animals. They were called “nigger” and they were oppressed, beaten, and turned into slaves.

When the 15th Amendment was passed, these slaves were legally created equal, but they were not socially created equal. They were continually called the “n” word and they were treated as inferior humans. Even today the “n” word gets thrown around like it’s nothing. In regards to Huck Finn, it’s important to remember that everything said in the book was not meant to insult the reader, but rather educate the reader on what happens and what is said in 1880’s daily life.

Another book that is constantly under fire is The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920’s book about rich partying socialites has been under scrutiny for its content on alcohol and sex. This particular ban irks me to my core because the entire 1920’s was exactly that: booze and sex. In the mid 1920’s Prohibition was in effect. All of New York City is said to have had at least 100,000 speakeasies (give or take the thousands that were shut down by Prohibition agents). The 20’s brought another kind of excitement for young adults as well: sex. It’s said that during that time “men found the clitoris.” Basically, the majority of cities in America were completely alcohol dependent, and sexual activity was at an all-time high. Haven’t you seen Boardwalk Empire??

The thing to remember with books written a long time ago, is that they were NOT MEANT TO OFFEND they were simply meant to bring awareness to the public by writing about what happens in daily life, while still adding a fun fictional flair to the work. But the thing that upsets me the most is that these books are part of our history they are written by people who experienced these lifestyles and wanted to tell others about it. It’s written to bring light to fact that young white people just called black people “niggers” not even because they hated black people, but because that is what they were told was the acceptable behavior.

It’s bringing light to the fact that even the richest, most affluent and respectable families in the 20’s were fueled by illegal alcohol, affairs, and often cruelty. That is what was acceptable. Fitzgerald was not saying that partying all the time is the right way to live your life, he was simply telling a fictional story of what he believed happened during the Roaring Twenties.

The thing to remember is that all of this is history. No one is saying that everyone should forget slavery happened, because it did! It did, and it was awful, and cruel and just plain wrong. And yet, people are saying that a fictional book should be forgotten because it uses a word that was used every single day for hundreds of years in the book. No one is saying that we should forget that there was a ban on alcohol for years and it drove people to do horrendous things, and yet they’re saying to forget this fictional book because it glorifies partying, drinking and sex.

It’s hypocritical and it’s wrong. That’s why for the last week of September the American Library Association is challenging readers to read and understand as many banned and challenged books they can. To prove that no one can tell you what you can and can not read. No one can tell you that you are not allowed to have opinions or the right to freedom of speech.

So for the last week of September, choose a book and read it!. I’ll list a bunch of books that are currently banned in cities or that are being challenged (almost banned) in cities. You can read as many as you want, or as little as you want. Just spread the word! Exercise your right to read what you want to read.

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

The Jungle  – Upton SInclair

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

1984 – George Orwell

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Ulysses – James Joyce

AND SO MUCH MORE!!! This is only a fraction of the banned and challenged books! Visit http://www.ala.org for more information on banned books and to see what books are banned and being challenged.

Until next time! Happy reading!

Rachel

email: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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