Banned and Challenged Classics

banned books2September 26-October 3 is Banned Books Week in the United States. I don’t imagine I need to preach to those of us who are book bloggers; our delight, our passion, our mental and spiritual growth, and our sense of connection to the world and those around us can often be found in the very books that others want to take off school and library shelves forever. It’s hard for us to imagine.

If you look at the ALA list of the most challenged books for 2008, however, nearly all of them are YA and children’s books (Gossip Girl, TTYL, And Tango Makes Three.) This makes sense, of course. People who want to ban books don’t want to challenge books they themselves would read. It’s all about the children. Somebody protect the children!

But here’s another take on that. The ALA has a list of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the banned books20th Century, including books like The Great Gatsby, Kim, Native Son, and To the Lighthouse. Nearly half of these acknowledged classics (albeit modern classics) have also been challenged or banned, many in the last twenty years.

When I worked at Barnes and Noble during graduate school, during Banned Books Week we set up a podium in the middle of the store. Employees took shifts reading aloud from their favorite banned books — everything from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Clockwork Orange to The Color Purple. Customers were welcome to take a turn. This week, I encourage you to read a banned or challenged book, particularly a classic. Read one to your kid. Read it aloud in a public place or classroom. Feature it on your blog. Shine a little light.

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7 Responses to Banned and Challenged Classics

  1. Eva says:

    What a neat tradition!

    I’ve read two banned classics this month (Go Tell It on the Mountain and Lady Chatterley’s Lover) and I’m reading a ‘modern classic’ Bless Me, Ultima now.

  2. rebeccareid says:

    I started my banned book, but I won’t get a review up until next week, I’m sure! But I really am enjoying reading all the posts.

  3. How fun that you used to work at a B&N! That would be comparable, for me, to working in an ice cream store (which I did once, and got fired, for “over-tasting”)!!! I can see a similar situation if I worked in a book store!

  4. Steph says:

    I love the idea of reading aloud from banned books, and the fact that customers were encouraged to join in!

    I’m not sure that I’m reading anything that has been banned or challenged this week, but I think these books make up the bulk of my reading anyway! So even if I’m not “honoring” them this week, I hope to do so throughout the year!

  5. Jenny says:

    Eva — I haven’t read any of those! Wonderful choices!

    Rebecca — I enjoyed your post on challenged books, and I look forward to your review of the one you read!

    rhapsodyinbooks — it was great. We got an employee discount, and once a year we got 40% off everything for Staff Appreciation Day! I loved working there. :)

    Steph — you’re like Scrooge, keeping Christmas in his heart throughout the year. Except, you know, with banned books. :)

  6. gnoegnoe says:

    I hadn’t heard of Banned Books Week until this year — thanks to book blogs like yours :)) And it certainly determined my book pick last Tuesday: Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, #3 on the banned and challenged classics list. That I also read To Kill a Mockingbird (#4) in September is a coincidence…

  7. TJ says:

    Just commenting to let you know that Boneshaker arrived today! Thanks so much!

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