Monday, December 2, 2013

Some of America's Great Banned Books - Part Two

As stated in Part One, the Library of Congress created an exhibit entitled "Banned Books that Shaped America."

The exhibit explores books that "have had a profound effect on American life" yet have been banned in one way or another.

Below are some of my favorites from the list of books from that exhibit that have been banned because of subject matter - or has had its language content challenged because of "political correctness."

One of the very interesting part of this is that some of these works are considered some of America's greatest literary treasures.

These are not all of the banned books from that exhibit listed, these are just my personal favorites which I found to be great reads.

And yes, these are books that I have read. Why did I repeat that? Well, for a person who has a hard time getting through a novel because they lose my interest - my saying that is a big deal to me.

Something written really has to hold on to my interest for me to get through, that is the reason I love Short Stories instead of Novels.

As in Part One, here's a fair Warning, the titles of what has been banned might surprise you.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903

Published in 1903, The Call of the Wild is Jack London’s most-read book, and is generally considered his best, hailed as the masterpiece of his “early period.”

Critic Maxwell Geismar, in 1960, referred to The Call of the Wild as “a beautiful prose poem,” and Editor Franklin Walker said that it “belongs on a shelf with Walden and Huckleberry Finn.”

But, as one might expect, such a classic work of American literature would find itself on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most-frequently challenged classics at #33.

Generally hailed as Jack London’s best work, The Call of the Wild is commonly challenged for its dark tone and bloody violence.

Because it is seen as a man-and-his-dog story, it is sometimes read by adolescents and subsequently challenged for age-inappropriateness.

Not only have objections been raised here, the book was banned in Italy, Yugoslavia and burned in bonfires in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s and early 30s because it was considered "too radical."

It's true, in 1929, Italy and Yugoslavia banned The Call of the Wild for being "too radical".

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940

Shortly after its publication the U.S. Post Office, which purpose was in part to monitor and censor distribution of media and texts, declared the book non-mailable.

In the 1970s, eight Turkish booksellers were tried for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” because they had published and distributed the text.

This wasn’t Hemingway’s only banned book – A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and Into the Trees were also censored domestically and abroad in Ireland, South Africa, Germany and Italy.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

As shocking as it might seem Kern County, California, has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939).

Objections to profanity - especially "goddamn" and the like - and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s.

It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 1950s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.

It is interesting to note that this book, which was written 10 years into the Great Depression, actually started Congressional hearings to see if this were actually the plight of the American people - and that it was taking place in our country at the time.

Politicians were so out of touch that they didn't believe things were that bad in the nation at the time.

Some even tried to cover it up saying that the New Deal policies had fixed everything by 1939, when in fact it had not.

Moby-Dick (or The Whale), Herman Melville,1851

In a real head-scratcher of a case, a Texas school district banned the book from its Advanced English class lists because it “conflicted with their community values” in 1996.

Community values are frequently cited in discussions over challenged books by those who wish to censor them.

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane, 1895

Restricting excess and refusing to allow teachers to teach books is still a form of censorship in many cases.

Crane’s book was among many on a list compiled by the Bay District School board in 1986 after parents began lodging informal complaints about books in an English classroom library.

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.”

Imagine that? Makes me wonder if they ever read it?

What all of these books have in common are that they are novels depicting fictionalized people amid accurate historical events and the societal attitudes associated with that period of time in which it was written and published.

I agree with the writer who put it this way: "Today’s views of profanity may have changed, but the shame of slavery coupled with current politically-correct ignorance are once more being dealt with not by mature discussion and knowledgeable discourse, but by banning books and burying heads in the sands of time.

There continues to be this pandemic of parents and other self-righteous individuals who believe that they- and they alone- must shelter everyone from the realities of history and have the absolute authority to do so.

The most important thing about history, though, is that it is a mirror of not only our past; but of our present and our future.

We must understand the mistakes of the past if we are to have an enlightened and free society going forward.

We have a duty and a need to know that such behavior and atrocity did occur so that we can learn what we have overcome and how far we have to go.

So when people, for any reason, want to throw out books that they disagree with or are offended by it leaves me with a very annoyed and defiant disposition.

Their ignorance offends me, but that doesn’t mean I should attempt to ban their right to their opinion. I encourage them to explain in mature dialogue their reasoning."

To those who would ban the truth of what the world was like, who was in charge and who did what to who; to those who want to hide from the truth of history; to those who knowingly want to stop the free flow of thought; I feel sorry for you.

Because frankly, you are no better than the Nazi who burned books to keep them from being read in an attempt to keep their people ignorant and slaves to the state.

That's just how I see it!



  1. I have read all except To Kill a Mockingbird, and re-reading Moby Dick. Do you remember Fahrenheit 451 with Julie Christie? I not only loved it, but it reminded me of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, the book, not the movie.
    After 17 years, we re-carpeted our house. We ended up with 133 boxes because we have so many books and we divvied them out so we could easily lift the boxes. I have decided to rearrange the re-shelving and I'm stuck on the categories. At least I have my books again. :)

  2. I cannot believe that today's society is thinking about banning books in school that my generation was allowed to read. You can't read The Cat In The Hat because it condoned troublemaking. You can't read Gone With The Wind because there's racism. You can't read Green Eggs And Ham because it teaches kids that everything in life is mandatory. You can't read Treasure Island because it mentions banditry, piracy, and greed. Any sex education book that is found in a middle school is now being thrown out. And don't even get me started on George Orwell's 1984. I could go on and on. But I won't. Just the read these books at your own risk. That's all I gotta say.


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