BBW Day Six- the Classics!
Oct
1
2009

The anatomy of a challenge fascinates me.

I’ve heard the pro censorship lobby wailing about THE CHILLLLDRRRREN! As if none of us has them or cares about them more than a bunch of nosy people way too invested in what everyone else is thinking. Censorship targets books like And Tango Makes Three, a lovely rendering of a TRUE STORY about PENGUINS at the Central Park Zoo. Yes, penguins.

But my kids don’t generally get assigned those books anyway – what they do get assigned and what I’d hate for them to miss are the classics (and anyway, we have Tango here at home, LOL). The ALA has a list of Banned and/or Challenged classics here with some of the reasons the books came under fire. A full list is also here.

Just a few:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (A fabulous book for upper high school grades told from the perspective of a young girl watching her father and the people in her small southern town deal with the accusations and criminal trial of a black man – as you can see the challenges come from several different directions and sadly, they all seem to miss the point)

Challenged in Eden Valley, Minn. (1977) and temporarily banned due to words “damn” and “whore lady” used in the novel. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, N.Y School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy novel.” Challenged at the Warren, Ind.Township schools (1981) because the book does “psychological damage to the positive integration process ” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.” After unsuccessfully banning Lee’s novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because the novel uses the word “nigger.” Challenged in the Kansas City, Mo. junior high schools (1985). Challenged at the Park Hill, Mo. Junior High School (1985) because the novel “contains profanity and racial slurs.” Retained on a supplemental eighth grade reading list in the Casa Grande, Ariz. Elementary School District (1985), despite the protests by black parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who charged the book was unfit for junior high use. Challenged at the Santa Cruz, Calif. Schools (1995) because of its racial themes. Removed from the Southwood High School Library in Caddo Parish, La. (1995) because the book’s language and content were objectionable. Challenged at the Moss Point, Miss. School District (1996) because the novel contains a racial epithet. Banned from the Lindale,Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book “conflicted with the values of the community.” Challenged by a Glynn County, Ga. (2001) school board member because of profanity. The novel was retained. Returned to the freshman reading list at Muskogee, Okla. High School (2001) despite complaints over the years from black students and parents about racial slurs in the text. Challenged in the Normal, Ill. Community High School’s sophomore literature class (2003) as being degrading to African Americans. Challenged at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, N.C. (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word “nigger.” Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut (another amazing book – it breaks my heart to think about kids not being assigned! Of course the book references violence – the narrator of the book is in a PRISON CAMP during WWII – among other things, it’s not a linear book and there’s a great deal of symbolism there, which is why it’s perfect for a lit class discussion. Like it or hate it – it’s a book dealing with important themes.)

Challenged in many communities, but burned in Drake, N. Dak (1973). Banned in Rochester, Mich. because the novel “contains and makes references to religious matters” and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause. An appellate court upheld its usage in the school in Todd v Rochester Community Schools, 41 Mich. App. 320, 200 N. W 2d 90 (I 972). Banned in Levittown, N.Y (1975), North Jackson, Ohio (1979), and Lakeland, Fla. (1982) because of the “book’s explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language.” Barred from purchase at the Washington Park High School in Racine, Wis. (I 984) by the district administrative assistant for instructional services. Challenged at the Owensboro, Ky. High School library (1985) because of “foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of bestiality, a reference to ‘Magic Fingers’ attached to the protagonist’s bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: ‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.”‘ Restricted to students who have parental permission at the four Racine, Wis. Unified District high school libraries (1986) because of “language used in the book depictions of torture, ethnic slurs, and negative portrayals of women:’ Challenged at the LaRue County, Ky. High School library (1987) because “the book contains foul language and promotes deviant sexual behavior’ Banned from the Fitzgerald, Ga. schools (1987) because A was filled with profanity and full of explicit sexual references:’ Challenged in the Baton Rouge, La. public high school libraries (1988) because the book is “vulgar and offensive:’ Challenged in the Monroe, Mich. public schools (1989) as required reading in a modem novel course for high school juniors and senior because of the book’s language and the way women are portrayed. Retained on the Round Rock, Tex. Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged as an eleventh grade summer reading option in Prince William County, Va (1998) because the book “was rife with profanity and explicit sex:” Removed as require dreading for sophomores at the Converty, R. I. High School (2000) after a parent complained that it contained vulgar language, violent imagery, and sexual content. Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, Ill. (2006), along with eight other challenged titles. A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the internet. Challenged in the Howell, Mich. High School (2007) because of the book’s strong sexual content. In response to a request from the president of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education, or LOVE, the county’s top law enforcement official reviewed the books to see whether laws against distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors had been broken. “After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient insterests of minors,” the county prosecutor wrote. “Whether these materials are appropriate for minors is a decision to be made by the school board, but I find that they are not in violation of criminal laws. Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker (another book I adore – talk about meaty for discussion! It provides students with the perspective they don’t hear very often in literature, especially given the time period)

Challenged as appropriate reading for Oakland, Calif. High School honors class (1984) due to the work’s “sexual and social explicitness” and its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality.” After nine months of haggling and delays, a divided Oakland Board of Education gave formal approval for the book’s use. Rejected for purchase by the Hayward, Calif. school’s trustee (1985) because of “rough language” and “explicit sex scenes.” Removed from the open shelves of the Newport News, Va. school library (1986) because of its “profanity and sexual references” and placed in a special section accessible only to students over the age of 18 or who have written permission from a parent. Challenged at the public libraries of Saginaw, Mich. (1989) because of its language and “explicitness.” Challenged as an optional reading assigned in Ten Sleep, Wyo. schools (1990). Challenged as a reading assignment at the New Burn, N.C. High School (1992) because the main character is raped by her stepfather. Banned in the Souderton, Pa. Area School District (1992) as appropriate reading for 10th graders because it is “smut.” Challenged on the curricular reading list at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Conn. (1995) because sexually explicit passages are appropriate high school reading. Retained as an English course reading assignment in the Junction City, Oreg. high school (1995) after a challenge to Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel caused months of controversy. Although an alternative assignment was available, the book was challenged due to “inappropriate language, graphic sexual scenes, and book’s negative image of black men.” Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla. (1995). Retained on the Round Rock, Tex. Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. Challenged, but retained, as part of the reading list for Advanced Placement English classes at Northwest High Schools in High Point, N.C. (1996). The book was challenged because it is “sexually graphic and violent.” Removed from the Jackson County, W. Va. school libraries (1997) along with sixteen other titles. Challenged, but retained as part of a supplemental reading list at the Shawnee School in Lima, Ohio (1999). Several parents described its content as vulgar and “X-rated.” Removed from the Ferguson High School library in Newport News, Va. (1999). Students may request and borrow the book with parental approval. Challenged, along with seventeen other titles in the Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary libraries (2002), by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. The group contends the books “contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture. Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide, by Robert P. Doyle.

8 comments to “BBW Day Six- the Classics!”

  1. Tina
    October 1st, 2009 at 3:44 pm · Link

    That is amazing… and equally amazing how far society has yet to come



  2. Diane Sadler
    October 1st, 2009 at 5:28 pm · Link

    I do not understand why any book should be censored at all!



  3. Kris
    October 1st, 2009 at 5:35 pm · Link

    I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, it was great. Brave New World and A Farewell to Arms were also very interesting reads and on the list.



  4. Karin
    October 1st, 2009 at 6:25 pm · Link

    It saddens me that so many of the classics have been challenged. I have enjoyed all of the classics I’ve read that are on that list – and some I read in high school. It just shocks me that there are so many people out there who are unwilling to have an open mind.



  5. RKCharron
    October 1st, 2009 at 11:55 pm · Link

    Hi Lauren :)
    Thanks for the great post on book banning.
    *sigh*
    The banners/censors mindset is easily understood. “How dare anyone read/see/think what *I* deem inappropriate?!” Each and every one of them would make good Nazis & I would tell them so to their faces. In fact, in a perfect world, every banner/censor would be forced to wear a Nazi SS uniform at all times so everyone would know what they stand for before one syllable of vitriol slips from their lips.
    :)
    Love & Best Wishes,
    RKCharron
    xoxo



  6. Christine
    October 2nd, 2009 at 7:44 am · Link

    THe only words that come to mind are sad and misguided. Because you know they have a greater agenda in mind.



  7. Lori T
    October 2nd, 2009 at 9:33 am · Link

    Oh, I loved To Kill a Mockingbird…it is actually one of my favorites.

    I really do find banning books to be absolutely insane. I think that people should be able to experience different things and books are a great way to get a glimpse into other places.



  8. Tracey D
    October 6th, 2009 at 3:33 pm · Link

    I, too, loved To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s sad to see such great books on such a list.

    Tracey D