Celebrate Your Freedom: Read a Banned Book

August 11th, 2008 at 6:30 am

In gearing up for Banned Books Week, September 27 – October 4, 2008, I am trying to decide which banned book to read. My right to read isn’t going to celebrate itself.

We all love a good list. Especially a list of books we’re supposed to have read. We scour these lists, smirking in satisfaction at the ones we have actually read, and making mental notes of the ones we think we ought to read.

A list of banned books provides all the things we love about book lists and more. There is something very illuminating about a culture’s puritan biases based on the ill it harbors for certain books.

So which one(s) do I read?

Some books are more obviously likely to raise the ire of certain citizens, like The Homo Handbook-Getting in Touch With Your Inner Homo. And some are a little more peculiarly controversial, like Forever by Judy Blume.

Judy Blume! I actually have a lot more respect for Judy Blume now. Way to go, Judy, getting a book banned. Alright.

Now, most of the banned books on the list seem to be “one of 55 books that parents in Fayetteville, Arkansas are petitioning to have removed from school libraries. The parents, who formed Parents Protecting the Minds of Children, object to the profane language and depictions of sexuality in many of the books and have accused the librarians and other opponents of their efforts of promoting a “homosexual agenda”.

So yeah. We have a small, vocal group in a single community seeking a narrow agenda. Which is their prerogative of course. But it doesn’t indicate that we are on the brink of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. I don’t think I’d want How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson displayed too prominently around my ankle biters either. Even if it is a “cautionary tale.”

So which one to read? There are a few surprising ones on the list to be sure.

Bringing Down the House?

All the Pretty Horses?

Barbara Kingsolver?

I think I’m going to play it safe and go with Bless Me, Ultima. It comes with a fabulous story:

High school students in Norwood, Colorado, staged an all-day sit-in to protest the removal of the novel from a ninth grade English classroom. The book had been removed following parent complaints of profanity and “pagan content” (the book’s title character is an herbal healer). Bob Conder, superintendent of schools, confiscated two dozen copies of the novel and threw them in trash cans, then allowed a group of parents to retrieve the books and destroy them. Conder later apologized, admitting he had never read the novel, which appears on First Lady Laura Bush’s “top ten” reading list for all ages.”

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One Response to “Celebrate Your Freedom: Read a Banned Book”

  1. If Lady Bush likes it, I don’t know how you could possibly go wrong. (I wonder if she’s actually read it. Or if her panel liked it for her).

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