Firstly, I have to say that I am amazed that people are still fashed over The Color Purple and The Catcher in the Rye, but according to the ALA, both books made the top ten challenged books in 2009. Also, can someone tell me why The Call of the Wild was banned/challenged? Is there a human cannibalism scene that I don’t know about? (I never got around to reading Jack London, because I have a vagina.)
So, banned books week is nigh upon us; starting September 24 and ending October 1, it’s a supposedly naughty way to kick off the season of chills, thrills, and stuffing yourself to the gills. My fellow bookslut is busily working on a piece about banned books that will be forthcoming sometime in the next century; I won’t indulge myself too much to opine here on the topic of banned books, except that, having looked at the lists that the ALA put out–all of the books I see on that list are books that take a naked look at humanity and its weaknesses, troubles, desires, and triumphs. Why should Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (one of my personal favorites) be a banned book? Because it acknowledges that sometimes men didn’t treat their wives so well, or because it features a large cast of African-American people? (I suspect strongly that, while it’s both, it’s also very much the latter–there is a high proportion of banned literature by African-American novelists.) Are The Grapes of Wrath and The Jungle taboo because they shine a light on the real struggles of the poor and working-class Americans? Mental illness, women’s issues, sex, money, racism, equal rights–it’s not smut that is being consistently challenged, or things that are actually depraved. I’ve read Chuck Palahniuk; if you want to talk about depravity,
read Snuff sometime (you’ll regret it) and say that shouldn’t be on the list instead of Harry Potter if one has to make such a list. Except for the stupid challenges to kid lit because it contains “occult” (cough) material, most of the banned books I see are ones that are replete with in-your-face-humanity, and for some reason, this frightens people.
Thanks to the ALA, even when people try to do stupid things like censoriously publish “new editions” of classics because they contain offensive words, we can be sure that our right to expression is not taken away by people who don’t realize that they can simply exercise their personal choice not to purchase or peruse a book that they deem scandalous. Support your local librarians and libraries; even though I’m sure there is probably some sort of library appreciation holiday, to me, this is a very important time to be thankful for the hard work they do. Maybe bake some muffins and take them to your local branch or donate to the ALA to help them keep attempts to take information away from us at bay. Or just buy a ‘banned’ book; nothing like sticking it to the man by defying his so-called authority. How will you celebrate Banned Books Week?