Friday, September 17, 2010

Did you know that the dictionary is a banned book?

Banned Book Week, a yearly event of the American Library Association, does not begin for another week, but I happened upon this article in the Huffington Post listing eleven of the most surprising banned books and, of course, I had to read it. And, yes, I was surprised.

1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary: Can you believe it? These dictionaries have been banned by some school systems in this country apparently because they contain definitions of sex acts! No wonder our educational system seems to be falling apart.

2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: This has been banned in some areas due to obscenity and the portrayal of the country in a negative light. Admittedly, it was a long time ago that I read this book, but I don't remember any obscenity. If it was there, it certainly didn't make an impression on me. As for portraying the country in a negative light, it was the Great Depression. An honest portrait of the times would necessarily be negative.

3. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig: I don't know this book but apparently the characters are animals and the policemen are portrayed as pigs. Some police departments took exception to that. Since pigs are some of the smartest animals around, it seems maybe they should be flattered.

4. Beloved and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: These two books by the Nobel Prize winning author have been banned for obscene language and gratuitous violence.

5. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle: This may be the most asinine example of all so it is fitting that it comes from Texas. This book was banned by the infamous Texas Board of (mis)Education not because of content but because one of the authors had the same name as an obscure Marxist theorist and the geniuses on the board could not be bothered to do due diligence to discover that he was an entirely different person. Poor Texas school children - victims of these idiots.

6. James and the Giant Peach and Witches by Roald Dahl: This famous author of children's books has seen these two books of his banned because of alleged obscenity, violence and sexism.

7. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: The book banners found this book to be sexually explicit and sympathetic to homosexuality.

8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Really???

9. A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway: These two Hemingway books were banned because of sexual content (Farewell) and because the banners thought it "pro-communist" (Bell). Heaven forbid that children should read anything that portrays communists or communism in a favorable light. Never mind that these communists were fighting a repressive and brutal fascist regime.

10. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein: Banned because it "promotes disrespect, horror and violence." I read Shel Silverstein's books, including this one, to and with my children from their earliest years and they are two of the most respectful, un-horror-ridden, and gentle people that I know. Shame on anyone who would ban it.

11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle: This is another one that I don't know but apparently it portrays a battle between good and evil and the banners thought that it espoused religious thought which they found offensive.

These books were banned from being seen or read by children, and certainly there are books that are inappropriate for reading at some tender ages. I wouldn't, for example, hand over Joyce's Ulysses to a third grader - even a very bright third grader. Parental responsibility is the way to handle that. But the thought of actually banning a book is totally odious to me. In a free society, all ideas must be out there on the table for people to pick and choose what they will read. Much as I loathe them, I would not even ban books by Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, my goodness! What did I do to all those little 4th graders? "James and the Giant Peach" was in the textbook from which I taught reading. Then I read "Brown Bear" to my child/grandchild. I can't remember which. And on top of all that, I've read most of the books on the list! What can I do?

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  2. I'm afraid you may be doomed, Anonymous - as many of us are.

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