Hello Fellow Book Nerds:
In an effort to help fight book censorship, I will be reading a few banned books this week. I have to say, choosing which books to read was not easy task; there are so many to choose from, all of which are phenomenal. Someone once said that “forbidden fruit tastes sweeter”, right?
First and foremost, I chose Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953). What better way to start a Banned Books Week than with a book about burning books? In case you are not familiar with Mr. Bradbury’s work of dystopian fiction, here is the synopsis from Amazon:
Guy Montage is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family”. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.
When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.
According to bannedbooksweek.org here are a few of the reasons for which Fahrenheit 451 has been known to show up on censorship requests:
- In 1992 a middle school in California decided to black out all the words that were considered offensive language, such as “hell” and “damn”. Later, after many complaints, the school exchanged the text for an accurate copy.
- In 2006 a Texas school district challenged it based on “discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, ‘dirty talk’, references to the Bible, and using God’s name in vain”.
Up next is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962). I have never read this book, and only recently heard about it. I guess I was living under a rock or something! I have been told it is a mastery of dystopian crime fiction, so I am really excited to read this one. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where the criminal take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex to “redeem” him, the novel asks, “At what cost?”
According to ALA.org these are some of the instances where the censorship of this book has been attempted:
- In 1973 a bookseller in Orem, UT was arrested for selling the novel. Charges were later dropped, but the book seller was forced to close the store and relocate to another city.
- Removed from Aurora, CO high school (1976) due to “objectionable” language and from high school classrooms in Westport, MA (1977) because of “objectionable” language.
- Removed from two Anniston, AL High school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restricted basis.
Why has this book had so much controversy surrounding it? It has been said that it contains over-the-top violence. I will let you know what I think once I finish this 213 page rumored monstrosity.
Next, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932). I read this book in high school, but let’s just say that was many moons ago. I am looking forward to revisiting Mr. Huxley’s chilling satire. In case you didn’t have an amazing high school English teacher like I did, here is the synopsis for this book from the back:
Alders Huxley’s tour de force, Brave New World is a darkly satiric vision of a “utopian” future– where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order. A powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations, it remains remarkably relevant to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying entertainment.
According to ALA.org there have been many instances of attempted censorship for this book. Most attempts of censorship stems from the promiscuity, language, and moral content of the book. I don’t know about you, but this kind of makes me want to read it more.
Lastly, I will be revisiting George Orwell’s 1984 (1949). I originally read this work of art in college. As we age, I believe our minds grow (well for most of us anyway). I am interested in seeing if I have different feelings about this book, since I’ve been away from academia for a little while. Most people have either heard about or read 1984, but in case you haven’t here is a synopsis of the book:
1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” — a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions– a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.
According to ALA.org, 1984 was challenged in Jackson County, FL in 1981 because they felt that Orwell’s novel was “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter”. If we think back to 1981, and the seemingly impending war with Russia, then I can see why this book would be challenged.
All of the books I have chosen were books written several decades ago. Please note that there are people who are attempting to censor books that were published within the last year. Surely I’m not alone when I say I find it a bit disconcerting that in 2016 we are dealing with censorship within our society. I am reminded of a famous quote by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (1791) who said, “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.” Hence, I say to go forth and read a banned book this week!
For a list of banned books, visit the American Library Association’s page at www.ala.org/bbooks
I found this great graphic on their website. it is very interesting how many challenged books are considered to be popular reads for most folks.