It’s Banned Books Week!

Happy Banned Books Week!

I’m always a week or two late in celebrating this week, somehow forgetting it’s September 27 – October 5, so I’m happy to finally be on time this year! I’m always curious about which books make the list.

Did you know Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, and Cat in the Hat made the list? Yes, even Dr. Seuss offended some parents. I’d never thought of the ham in Green Eggs and Ham as a phallic symbol, but apparently some parents did. Where do these people get these ideas?!

Some of the most recent titles are:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

China Dream by Ma Jian

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Of course there are the classics that have been listed almost since their publication – Catcher in the Rye, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the Harry Potter series to name just a few. I wonder how an author feels when their book is banned or challenged. Do they shake their head in disbelief? Or is there a sense of accomplishment that their work caused a needed ripple? I doubt they write their books with making the list as their goal.

Reading through the reasons why books are banned or challenged is interesting too. Obscene language, profanity, sexual references, anti-Christianity, racism, and immorality are among the most common. So many reasons for so many books. Some are less defined, stating the book was ‘a filthy, trashy novel.’ this for To Kill a Mockingbird. And there’s the thing – deciding what’s considered obscene, profane, vulgar, sexually immoral, etc. for readers, no matter if they’re students or adults.

Here is a question posed by one of my poetry mentors, Philip Shabazz. He uses the prompt to get us to dig deeper in our work, make sure we’ve gotten to the core of our poetry. I think poets and writers can simply entertain, not always have a message, but I do see his point. Books often make us think, they challenge the status quo, they introduce us to people or circumstances we need to know about. Books can shine a light on the dark corners of humanity and society and we need that illumination. Books can also open our eyes to the beauty of humanity and society that some may see as ugly or vulgar. We need to see all those shades of beauty. We need the healing books can bring.

As I looked through a fuller list of banned and challenged books, there were many I’d read, several as required reading in school, and several I read with my kids as required reading when we homeschooled. Some of them have been my favorites. I don’t know if that makes me a rebel or some kind of heathen for enjoying ‘questionable’ literature. In this case I’m rather fine with either.

In honor of this week’s celebration of the written word, I plan to read a banned book or two. Last night I started As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Not a recent addition to the list but one I’ve not read, and somehow I’ve ended up with two copies, one with someone’s notes scribbled in the margins. That will make it more interesting to read!

What will you read this week to celebrate Banned Books Week?

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4 Responses to It’s Banned Books Week!

  1. Thanks, Kim, for a timely reminder! I thought the Bible was also a banned book at one time, or maybe not. I just happen to have on my bookshelf The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–which I have never finished reading. Mark Twain’s language, dialect, etc. is hard to read at times, and I don’t like his use of “nigger.” I don’t know if that was why it was banned or not. But I am giving it another go!

    • Hi Martha! I’ve not seen the Bible listed, but I can imagine some people taking offense with it. There are those who find fault or something bad about anything – it’s as if they spend all their time looking for it!

      Yes, one of the reasons Huckleberry Finn was banned and challenged was the use of that word, but there were several other reasons too. Some didn’t like the grammar in general, there was racism – other than the use of the derogatory word, the idea that a white boy was saving a black man . . . there were all kinds of reasons. In one instance someone took offense because Huck used the word sweat, when he should have used perspiration lol. I found it interesting too that in 2015 a company called CleanReader issued an ebook of Huckleberry Finn with three different filter levels – clean, cleaner, and squeaky clean! Unbelievable!

      I hope you enjoy your reading this week! Thank you for reading A Writer’s Window!

  2. bertielou51 says:

    I really loved that Sherman Alexie book you listed. Unfortunately, he has been kind of blacklisted for “me, too” type accusations. So, a banned book by a sorta (for now) banned writer.

    • Hi Roberta,
      That adds a whole new level to banned or challenged books, doesn’t it! I’ll be curious to see how the accusations play out and how it affects his career.

      Always good to see you pop up here! Thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Window 🙂

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