I don’t believe in banning books. I believe in ignoring books I don’t like or find offensive but I believe in free speech, even when I hate the speech itself. Lucky for me, I live in the United States of America where this is law.
That doesn’t mean that books have never been banned on a local level, though, and so today I will begin my week of banned books I love. Most of these are slam-dunk no-brainers. They are the easy ones, the ones you trot out to make the banners look foolish. Some are tougher to defend, and I’m not sure I’ll try. I’ll simply say that every book on this list is a book I’ve read, used and loved.
Number one: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Oh, how I love this “filthy, trashy novel” and the “filthy, trashy” (I would assume?) movie, too. I was seventeen years old when I saw the movie and it shook me to my core. I then found the book at the school library and read it. I can’t imagine a school library without it. The subject matter was heavy for me at the time, especially the stark racism to which I had never been exposed, even though my maternal family was from south Mississippi. The rape, the segregation, the lynching attempts. And yet there was such beauty in that book. Atticus Finch is one of the most perfect characters ever crafted, too perfect some say. But we see him through the eyes of his daughter, and yes, I do think it was an accurate portrayal of what he must have seemed to her in those dark days, her knight in shining armor. He is what we all need in dark days, the glimmer of hope that good might prevail, that one good man or woman can make a difference, and must make an effort…
If you are a parent who finds the subject matter or the language too harsh, my most sincere suggestion would be for you to let your son or daughter read it and then discuss it with them, find out what they’re thinking about it, do whatever damage control you think is necessary. You might be surprised by their responses. If that is something you are simply unable to consider, then I’d insist that you take action to excuse them from the assignment (if it’s an assigned book) but for goodness sake don’t ask the school to ban the book. Understand that you have the responsibility and the authority to monitor and control what your kids see, but if you truly value your American heritage, you will understand that your responsibility and authority are to your own kids, not mine.
In my efforts to build my library I have discovered a gaping hole where this book should be, so I just ordered it for my shelf of beloveds. This makes me very happy.
What the American Library Association reports about this book:
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Challenged in Eden Valley, MN (1977) and temporarily banned due to words “damn” and “whore lady” used in the novel. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy novel.” Challenged at the Warren, IN 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 trying to ban Lee’s novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Challenged in the Waukegan, IL 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, AZ 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, CA 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, MS School District (1996) because the novel contains a racial epithet. Banned from the Lindale, TX 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, OK High School (2001) despite complaints over the years from black students and parents about racial slurs in the text. Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High School’s sophomore literature class (2003) as being degrading to African Americans. Challenged at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, NC (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word “nigger.” Challenged at the Brentwood, TN Middle School (2006) because the book contains “profanity” and “contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest.” The complainants also contend that the book’s use of racial slurs promotes “racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy.” Retained in the English curriculum by the Cherry Hill, NJ Board of Education (2007). A resident had objected to the novel’s depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the Depression. The resident feared the book would upset black children reading it. Removed (2009) from the St. Edmund Campion Secondary School classrooms in Brampton Ontario, Canada because a parent objected to language used in the novel, including the word “nigger.”
2 responses to “A filthy, trashy book.”
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my FAVORITE all time reads! Its laughable that it is banned. Stop by and see the Banned Book giveaway and posts we are doing at Book Journey!
Thanks for the invitation. I’ll be there!