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Banned Books Week 2010, Part II

September 24, 2010

Yesterday I talked a bit about Banned Books Week. Today, as I unpack boxes in my new home, I thought you might like to hear about what I’ve chosen to read for BBW 2010!

In the past, the independent bookstore where I worked has featured banned books in some way to celebrate Banned Books Week, but I’ve never taken it upon myself to celebrate individually. This year, I’ll be exercising my right to read what I choose by reading several new-to-me books that has been banned or challenged. Here are my picks:

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The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Somehow, I never read this book in school, but I know many people who count it among their favorites. Here are a few of the cases cited on the ALA’s website:

  • In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, OK was fired for assigning the book to an eleventh grade English class.The teacher appealed and was reinstated by the school board, but the book was removed from use in the school.
  • In 1963, a delegation of parents of high school students in Columbus, OH, asked the school board to ban the novel for being “anti-white” and “obscene.” The school board refused the request.
  • Challenged as an assignment in an American literature class in Pittsgrove, NJ (1977).  After months of controversy, the board ruled that the novel could be read in the Advanced Placement class, but they gave parents the right to decide whether or not their children would read it.
  • Removed from the school libraries in Morris, Manitoba (1982) along with two other books because they violate the committee’s guidelines covering “excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult.”
  • Challenged at the Linton-Stockton, IN High School (1988) because the book is “blasphemous and undermines morality.”
  • Removed because of profanity and sexual situations from the required reading curriculum of the Marysville, CA Joint Unified School District (1997). The school superintendent removed it to get it “out of the way so that we didn’t have that polarization over a book.”

And that’s not all; the ALA’s website cites 25 more cases where The Catcher in the Rye was either banned or challenged. For such a beloved book, that’s a lot of negativity.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I recently checked the audio version of The Great Gatsby out from my local library. Since I always have an audiobook going, I thought this one would be perfect for Banned Books Week. According to the ALA’s website, it’s not nearly as controversial asThe Catcher in the Rye, but it does have one case listed:

Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of “language and sexual references in the book.”  Source: 2010 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a young adult novel that tells of a girl’s experience with rape.  This past week, there was an uproar in the Twitter and blog communities over an article written for the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, by Wesley Scroggins, a professor at Missouri State University.  In the article, entitled “Filthy books demeaning to Republican education,” he labels Speak “soft pornography” because it contains scenes of rape.  Halse Anderson wrote a response on her blog, which sparked a response across the Internet.  Bloggers everywhere have been posting about their experiences with Speak (Reclusive Bibliophile has complied a linked list of many such posts), and the Twitterfeed #SpeakLoudly has taken off.  I have been reading everything, but I’ve never read the book.  I’m using this Banned Books Week to change that.

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What are your favorite banned or challenged books?  Will you be reading any banned or challenged books in honor of Banned Books Week 2010?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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4 Comments
  1. September 24, 2010 11:17 am

    I really want to read The Catcher In The Rye, both because of it’s fame and because I found a beautiful-looking copy recently. It was only recently I learned of the story and can see why people might have issues with it but to ban it is a bit extreme. It’s funny in a way that in trying to get Speak off the shelves it’s had the exact opposite effect that the guy wanted. If he’d kept quiet there would’ve been less people reading it.

    • Erin permalink*
      September 26, 2010 12:41 am

      Yes, you would think people would figure out that attempting to ban a book only increases interest in it. If you get to The Catcher in the Rye soon, we can compare notes!

  2. September 24, 2010 4:25 pm

    I have so many favorites that make there way onto the Banned Books List. My favorite book (which just happens to be frequently challenged/banned) is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. I have been reading Banned Books all month but I’m hoping next week to finally tackle “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Outsiders” – both have been on my TBR for years.

    • Erin permalink*
      September 26, 2010 12:42 am

      Ooh, I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian! I listened to the audio, read by Alexie, and it was fabulous. I’ve not read Perks but read The Outsiders in high school and remember liking it. I like the idea of reading banned books all month. Maybe a good goal for me for next year!

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