Thursday, September 19, 2013

Banned books

In case you didn't know, next week, September 22 - 28, is Banned book week. Banned books are an interesting and relevant topic to our course, so I thought I would get your opinions.

There are actually two distinct groups of censored books. There are “banned books” and “challenged books”. According to the American Library Association’s webpage about banned books: 
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials.  Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.
Although it still occurs, book banning is less common nowadays then it was in the past, but books are still constantly being challenged in schools and libraries across our nation. In my opinion, banning or challenging a book because it is says something you don’t want it to is ridiculous. Some of the greatest books I have ever read were once “banned books”. This includes:
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses, by James Joyce
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  • 1984, by George Orwel 

There are many, many others as well. You can check out the American Library Association’s webpage about banned books to get an idea about just how many books are challenged each year and to explore the controversy.

I want to know what you guys think. Are there situations where you think a book should be banned? Or is it never ok? How many books that you have read are on the banned books list? Do you think they should have been banned?

I also wanted to let you guys know that the UNM Bookstore always does events during banned book week. This year they are having two speakers. Both are authors of banned/challenged books.

Nasario GarcĂ­a
Author of Grandma's Santo on Its Head.
Wed, Sept. 25th, 3:00pm

Gene Lessard
Thu, Sept. 26th , 12:00pm

Both authors will be talking about their books and then doing a book signing. The events will be held in the general books department in the main campus bookstore.

I assume that these events would count for our lecture, please correct me if I am wrong professor Donovan.


  1. The topic of banned books hits home for me. I am a Mexican-American and a couple of years ago, Arizona decided to ban books that had to do with my heritage. Even though I am not a resident of Arizona and instead live in this wonderful state, I still felt attacked by the AZ government. How is it possible that officials feel that parts of history should be erased from the minds of people?

    Bless Me Ultima is one of those books that was banned. Also, this past week, Dreaming in Cuba was banned because it contains a lot of sexual imagery. The school district where the book was banned called it porn. It is true that many Latin American countries highly sexualize women. It is also true though that it helps people around the world understand the Latino culture and why there is so much violence against women and it helps explain the machismo movement in many Latin American countries.

    The people deciding to ban books have creative ways of explaining their decisions but for me, none of them explain the decision to oppress a culture. I don’t think any book in the world should be banned. The truth of stories or what they show from the past only help us become better. I don’t remember where I heard or read this but I remember the phrase that we can’t see the finish line if the starting line has been erased. How can we see the progress our society has made if we don’t allow ourselves to look back at our history?

    One of the books I have read that was once banned is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As I understand, that book was banned because of the word Huck Finn would use to refer to Jim. I also read online that some publishers have removed that word because they don’t think kids should read that word. I understand where they are coming from, but I also don’t think we can run away from U.S history and forget a part of history when referring to a person of color by that word was acceptable.

    Reading will only increase our knowledge if we do it right.

  2. As for myself, I can't say that I've really thought about this issue at all. I think the closest I come to experiencing this banning of books concerns the Harry Potter series. I've attended Catholic private school since I started school, completing my high school education at St. Pius X. Needless to say, before that, I went to middle school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Rio Rancho, and my teachers there were a bit more concerned with what we children were reading as "fun literature". And of course, Harry Potter was a series that was frowned upon to be reading in the classroom. I know it might seem silly to people today, but in that time, I could understand why we were expected to turn our attention to other things. If I got the cool teachers though, they'd let me continue reading (because I'd bring the books anyway!).

    I've also read about 2/3 of the book titles listed above, and I'll admit I didn't know what kind of history they had been through! It's amazing how the times change, and how these timeless literary masterpieces were once in danger of being banned. I'm grateful that I live in this century and that I have access to these books. Funny how some of these books, for instance To Kill A Mockingbird, were in the process of being banned because they exposed the faults of society, and because leaders at that time were not interested in the public changing its thinking and point of view. (At least that's my understanding.)

    In any case, I think the literature printed today should still be edited and looked through in great detail, taking care of thinking what audience they are targeting, and if that audience involves children, then the material should not be as violent/sexually explicit/foul as more mature audiences would prefer. This topic is a difficult one to discuss, but maybe the class can also comment on what the think about censorship?

  3. Yes, these talks would definitely count!

  4. I never knew there were two groups of censored books. I knew about the banned books, but not about the challenged books. I guess that group of book is not really highlighted compared to the books that are banned.

    It is funny some of the books I read I never thought they were banned, because there I was in middle school or high school reading those banned books or checking them out from the library. I can see why some books were banned. Not that I agree with it, but I see why some people might take offense to them. For example, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, said the N word many times and some people might be offended by that. However, I agree with what Karla said, that the book depicts a part of our history that doesn’t put the U.S. in a good light and some of the stuff that has been said or done, but is an accurate depiction of how white people referred to slaves.

    Other books I don’t completely understand why they are banned. I guess it’s what Jaime says it’s for political reasons and to not show their government, society, and/or culture in a bad light.

    I’m glad we live in this time where we can read all these books. One of my favorites is The Great Gatsby and now it’s made into a movie. It is funny how the times change, from being a banned book to being on the silver screen for millions to see.

  5. I don't think it's ever okay to ban books. If the reason for banning a book is because it contains graphic sexuality and/or violence, then I can understand it being restricted from younger readers. I mean restricted in the sense that kids couldn't check it out at the school library themselves until they were older, and it wouldn't be featured in that grade's English class. "A Clockwork Orange" would be an example to me of something like an R-rated book. I'm fine with these kinds of restrictions, in the same way I'm fine with kids not being allowed to see an R-rated movie without their parents at the theater.

    Unfortunately, what qualifies as generally "inappropriate" is highly subjective and many parents and educators underestimate what young readers are already aware of and mature enough to read about. When it comes to books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a huge difference between mature content and socially-challenging content. Young readers should already know about slavery and the Jim Crow era from their American History classes--these classic books put those lessons into a more humanistic context. A history textbook can tell you that black Americans were enslaved, oppressed and treated unfairly, but books like Huck Finn and TKAM put you right there in an era where the N-word was thrown around and people with names and personalities were punished, lynched, and considered inferior for having a particular skin color. The characters were fictional of course, but the messages weren't, and such bad times are an important part of our history and culture. Our society has to learn from its own history, not pretend it never happened.

    If a parent insists that their child will not be learning from such provocative books on their watch, nobody can force them otherwise, and best of luck to that poor kid. But these parents and social watchdogs have no right to forbid anyone else from educating themselves further with other people's points of view.

  6. I also believe that no book should be banned. No matter how controversial the topic or content of the book might be it is the author's freedom of speech. I think that every book has something to be offered. No matter how controversial or offensive a book is in the end it holds merit. For example The Great Gatsby is quite possibly my favorite book of all time. The Great Gatsby was a book that I felt described so many feelings that I had once felt but couldn't put into words. It gave explanation to my own life. Maybe it was controversial that there was an undertone of Nick Caraway being in love with Jay Gatsby but I felt like that portrayed a form of unrequited love in such a wonderful sense.

    I feel like the books that have once been banned hold the most significance to people. I feel like they hold the strongest and most real messages. Maybe as mentioned earlier I would agree that some books aren't proper for a very young audience so there should be ratings but in no circumstance should a book be banned. Education in its best free form is books, to keep that from the society is simply wrong. Some of the best life lessons are held in controversial books. And I believe that those resources should continue to be free.


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