September 24th through October 1st is Banned Books Week.
Talk about an easy subject to research! It might have been easier to write up a “books that have never been banned anywhere” list. The banning of books seems so ridiculous, simplistic, and stupid to most of us. But man, in all his Jeckyll and Hyde glory, will all-too-often, when trying to solve a problem, come up with a solution much worse. This is “the 29th annual Banned Books Week” The week is used to condemn censorship and “thought police.”
O.K., let’s take a look at a brief (in the scheme of these things) list of books that have been (ironically) banned here in the U.S….
1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 has to head this list of “ironic books banned.” Why? Fahrenheit 451 is an entire novel about the future and the banning (and burning) of books. It was banned, ironically, because one of the books that eventually gets banned and burned is the Bible. Drawn your own conclusions, my (hopefully) intelligent readers.
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Mark Twain was a racist? A product of the times? Twain uses the bombshell “N” word so as to illustrate the awfulness of the word (and all its connotations). This vicious word is still, far and away, the most highly-charged and controversial word in the English language. So, the knee-jerk reaction is to ban the book. Or better still, as in more recent examples, issue the book with the “N” word cleverly edited out.
3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
There isn’t enough time to edit out all the examples of the expression “f*** you” being used in this one. Also banned because it promotes youthful rebellion and disrespect of authority. Catcher in the Rye was the book that guy was reading when he shot and killed John Lennon. So maybe if it were still banned… hmmm, slippery slope, isn’t it?
4. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford
Misprint, right? Uh, no. The very first Where’s Waldo?book was, indeed, banned, because in one of the Where’s Waldo? drawings a beach is shown featuring a woman lying on the sand with part of her breast showing. It was actually just a side view of her breast, with a penciled-in microscopic nipple shown.
Do you realize the meticulous research and hours of time it must have taken whoever discovered this “offensive” character amidst all the thousands and thousands of characters featured in a Waldo book?
5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
This is the incredible story of an ever-hopeful and ever-wistful young girl who is eventually killed in the Holocaust. In some ways, it is the ultimate example of the ever-classic theme of “Good vs. Evil.” Or one very good person in the face of perhaps the greatest evil of the past several centuries. Yet despite her incredibly horrible enemies and fate, this remarkable teenage girl still believes in “the basic goodness of mankind.” Banned by the Alabama State Textbook Committee in 1983 for being “a real downer.”
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Like our pal Huck Finn, this book has been banned because of the free-flowing use of the “N” word. And like Twain’s book, it is used to paint an accurate picture of the period (and all its ignorance). It has been banned across America for “racial slurs” and for “promoting white supremacy.” Also because a parent thought the way “blacks are treated by members of [the] white community in a way that would upset black children.” Only ironic because never, but never, in the entire history of literature, has good and evil been so clearly portrayed and delineated. Real (not ersatz) racism is shown under a clear magnifying glass, in all its vicious cruelty.
(As a sidebar, to those of you who do not like reading -definitely see the movie. To Kill a Mockingbird is without question one of the greatest movies ever made. One of those rare times “the movie is equally as great as the book it is based upon.”)
7. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter books are far and away the most banned books of the past decade. Extremely ironic in that the Harry Potter series has probably inspired more young people to read than all the Hooked on Phonics and Pizza Hut books in the world.
Also one other point for all those people who have worked so tirelessly to ban these highly-popular books: strip away the magic and the Dr. Seuss creatures and the wizards and sorcerers, and ultimately the series boils down to the message that love, understanding, and tolerance are the most important things in the world.
8. Little Red Riding Hood
(You can’t make this stuff up, folks!)
Little Red Riding Hood has been banned for the use of alcohol (one of the items in Red Riding Hood’s basket is a bottle of wine).
9. Sleeping Beauty
The fairy tale was banned for promoting witchcraft and magic.
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This classic was banned for “vulgar language.”
11. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Why do I feel like I am writing a Monty Python sketch? Could there possibly be a more harmless, innocuous book than Harriet the Spy? O.K. this one was banned because it “teaches children to lie, spy, back-talk, and curse.”
12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
This book was banned in the South during the Civil War because of its anti-slavery content. Well, heck, that was over 150 years ago. Fortunately, as we all know, man has come a long way since those days of ignorance.