UNION COUNTY — What do certain works by authors Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Maurice Sendak, and Dr. Seuss have in common with The Bible?
They are all books that for one reason or another have been banned.
This week (Sept. 24-30) is Banned Books Week, which, according to the Banned Books Week Coalition website (www.bannedbooksweek.org) was “launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.”
The website describes Banned Books Week as “the annual celebration of the freedom to read” and urges the public to get involved through the “lots of ways you can help celebrate Our Right to Read!”
At the Union County Carnegie Library, the celebration of Banned Books Week began a week early when the library staff put up a display of a number of banned books last week. The display includes yellow caution tape and signs warning patrons that the books on display have been banned. Some of the books on display — and the reasons they have been banned — are:
• The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time. It is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.”
• Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.
• The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
Young Holden, favorite child of the censor. Frequently removed from classrooms and school libraries because it is “unacceptable,” “obscene,” “blasphemous,” “negative,” “foul,” “filthy,” and “undermines morality.” And to think Holden always thought “people never notice anything.”
• To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s great American tome stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”
• Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
Sendak’s work is beloved by children in the generations since its publication and has captured the collective imagination. Many parents and librarians, however, did much hand-wringing over the dark and disturbing nature of the story.
• The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Lorax was banned because it portrays the foresting industry in an arguable negative way. Some people felt that this book was persuading children to be against logging.
• Holy Bible
According to the American Library Association’s latest “State of America’s Libraries” report, The Holy Bible was ranked as the sixth most challenged book in America because of its “religious viewpoint.”
These banned books are also included in the display:
• Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• Moby Dick by Herman Melville
• Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowlings
• The Color Purple by Alice Walker
• Black Beauty by Anna Seawell
• Blubber by Judy Blume
• Looking for Alaska by John Green
• The Fault in our Stars by John Green
• 1984 by George Orwell
• The Giver by Lois Lowry
Each banned book has a piece of paper in it that persons who check them out can fill out and turn in for the chance to win a pize. There will be a drawing for the prize this Friday (Sept. 29).
For more information about the reasons why these — and many other books — have been banned and/or their banning demanded, visit the Union County Carnegie Library and/or go to the Banned Books Week Coalition website (www.bannedbooksweek.org). Then, to learn even more, check them out and read them for yourself, because by doing so you will not only see what all the fuss has been about, you will be exercising and celebrating the freedom to read and make up your own mind and defending the right of others to do the same.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.