Sunday, September 24, 2006


This week is the 25th anniversary of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, celebrating “the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” and stressing “the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.” (From Why Banned Books Week?)

I will be celebrating Banned Books Week in honor of my own experience of book-banning.

The summer before my junior year of high school, our summer reading list included One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. There were others, but those are the two I remember most vividly. Why do I remember them? Because when we returned to school my junior year I found out they had been removed from the summer reading list. It seems that my best friend’s mother challenged their inclusion on the reading list because of coarse language. She didn’t want her daughter reading those books, and she didn’t think they were appropriate for anyone else to read, either. The interesting thing about all of this is that 1) my best friend had one of the world’s foulest mouths when her mother wasn’t around and 2) those books weren’t required reading. They were two amongst several that we had to choose from.

In an effort to keep the peace between my best friend, her mother, and my mother, I chose other books to read. As a result, I have never read either One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Slaughterhouse Five, both of which have been challenged and banned on numerous occasions all over the country. I originally considered reading Catcher in the Rye to celebrate Banned Books Week, but thought better of it and decided to read one of the two that I didn't have the opportunity to read lo those many years ago.

The ALA has a list of The Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2005 and the Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century, as well as the opportunity to vote for your favorite banned books. My mom also sent me this great article from her newspaper.

(Shout out to my mom for inspiring this post).


Jennifer said...

That’s awesome! I admire your stand and your ability to keep the peace. So which book are you going to read? Catcher in the Rye is one of my all-time favorites, btw. Which is fitting, I suppose, being a rebellious boat-rocker and all. Hey, I wonder if there's a banned blog list somewhere. I'm probably on it. :)

Anonymous said...

I recall reading The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men in high scool, but at the time I did not know they were controversial.

Ruth said...

I read the article your mom sent, and promptly sent it to my mom (a librarian). I can't imagine my teen years without Judy Blume, or my adult years without J.K. Rowling. Thank goodness most requests to ban books are denied are ignored!

Ruth said...

Fantastic. I don't think I've ever read a banned book - but I've seen the movies: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest; Oranges are not the Only Fruit and The Life of Brian - all banned (...I _think_....?)

Do you know what I would really love? A blog book club. I read books (I'm talking mostly non-fiction here) and I want to question the author. I can't of course. But if I could find people who'd read the same book, and discuss it with them, it'd be great!

Jennifer said...

I just read the article... man, it burns me up that Mockingbird is on the list. That makes two of my all-time favorites! Maybe something's wrong with me...

TLS said...

Banned books are the best! I suspect it's b/c the books that make us think deeply about profound issues (race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.) scare people the most. What if our children actually took these ideas seriously???

Kat E said...

great post! I'm inspired to read something on the list now in honor of Banned Books week...but what to choose?! New Joy of Gay Sex? Captain Underpants? Hmmm, maybe "Heather Has Two Mommies" will fit the bill...(chuckling to myself)

Mary Beth said...

Ruth (Across the pond)--My good friend from seminary read and watched Oranges are Not the Only Fruit for an independent seminar. She loved both. Thanks for reminding me that I want to read that!

Ruth (in NE)--Why did I not know your mom was a librarian? I'm not sure how I missed that.

TLS--Repeat after me: Thinking for yourself is bad. Now keep saying it until you remember it.

Ritz--I think that Heather Has Two Mommies may be a quick read. You should supplement it with New Joy of Gay Sex. We'll be waiting for your book report.

Dave--I haven't read either of those. Is that bad?

Jennifer--Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorites, too. It's one of my guilty pleasure movies as well.