What banned books are you reading?
Some books are written with the intention of making their readers uncomfortable in a good way, to make them think “outside of the box.” Others treat with ordinary topics, but belie subtler meanings beneath a comely surface. Still others are written merely to titillate and entertain, containing little to no deeper meaning.
Each of these categories has its best sellers, its flops, and its one hit wonders. Each also has volumes that are widely read and discussed for their merits and their controversies.
September 30 – October 6, 2012, marks the 30th annual Banned Books Week in the U.S. Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Libraries and bookstores around the country mount displays of challenged books and host a variety of events to draw attention to the problem of censorship.
What follows is a list of some of The Eagle Staff’s favorite contested books.
Looking for Alaska,
by John Green
The book was challenged on the grounds that it is “pornographic” and “disgusting.” One parent of a high school student in New York even went as far as refusing to read the book himself, reportedly saying that “One does not need to have cancer to diagnose cancer”.
In March, The Knoxville Journal in Knoxville, Tenn., reported that a parent of Karns High School student objected to the book’s placement on his class required reading list on the grounds that its sex scene and its use of profanity rendered it pornography.
Author John Green said, “Some people say, ‘You wrote a dirty, dirty book.’ But there are very old-fashioned values and even a lot of religion in it. There are some adults who think that the only kind of ethics that matter are sexual ethics. So they miss everything else that is going on in the book.”
Green also said, “The book has never been marketed to 12-year-olds. Never. It is packaged like an adult book; it doesn’t even say it’s published by a kids’ book imprint on the cover, and it’s never shelved in the children’s section of bookstores.”
The Hunger Games trilogy,
by Suzanne Collins
The trilogy has been maligned as anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, containing offensive language, a study in the occult/satanism, and promoting violence.
Many of these supposed qualities are not represented in the book. While the story does have its fair share of the ultra-violence, the main controversy actually came from the production of “The Hunger Games” film adaptation.
Back in March, as the movie debuted, Twitter exploded with fans’ complaints that two characters were portrayed by black actors. Oddly, many of them claimed this made their deaths less sympathetic. But this isn’t a problem with the book (which clearly describes Rue and Thresh as having dark brown skin and dark eyes) it’s a problem with readers!
These readers failed to comprehend simple descriptive sentences and assumed the characters were white. What should have been a case for the book’s ability to make its readers uncomfortable in a good way—to identify with the deaths of people of color as much as with white kids—instead exposed a latent racism among the tweeting teens.
The Da Vinci Code,
by Dan Brown
Though older than “Looking for Alaska” or “The Hunger Games” trilogy, “The Da Vinci Code” is still a staff favorite, and is a quality mystery/thriller.
The book’s dealings with the occult, and historical offshoot Christian cults and groups is more than enough fodder for controversy. Many have objected to the book on the basis that it is offensive to deeply held religious beliefs. This cannot be disputed, as the book does fly in the face of the established story of Christ and the foundations of the Catholic Church.
However, these facts aren’t grounds for censorship. The story is fiction, and it falls firmly in the “meant to titillate and entertain” category. The book is not a serious work of scholarship, and should not be taken as reason to question one’s beliefs (unless a reader wants to).