Thursday, September 28, 2006


"On the evening of May 10, 1933, some four and a half months after Hitler became Chancellor, there occurred in Berlin, a scene which had not been witnessed in the Western world since the middle ages.  At about midnight, a torchlight parade of thousands of students ended at a square on Unter den Linden opposite the University of Berlin.  Torches were put on a huge pile of books that had been gathered there, and, as the flames enveloped them, more boks were thrown on the fire until some twenty thousand had been consumed.   Similar scenes took place in several other cities.  The book burning had begun."
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:  A History of Nazi Germany
Page 241
By William L. Shirer
Simon and Schuster
New York 1959, 1960
Since this is National Banned Book Week we decided to drop this into the mix just to see what would happen.  
It seems to us that those who would ban books about controversial or even unpopular subjects are in fact saying "we choose to remain ignorant about such topics."  And that is their right.   If cultural cave dwellers feel comfortable in the dark then they have every right to live like Neanderthals and remain uninformed.   But for the rest of us, who believe that education is a good thing, and that exposure to controversial material is a way to shed light on a given subject or subjects,  the acts challenging, banning, or even burning books are the kind of behaviors that we would expect in Fascist or Communistic societies, not here in the United States. 
And yet, it appears as if there are a lot of proto-hominids out there who either believe that ignorance is a good thing or who are so tightly wound that they truly believe that they have a right to impose their narrow minded interpretation of the First Amendment on others.   In any event, we refuse to take our marching orders from people for who the fullest extent of their literary life seems to grunting around the fire while they wipe mammoth blood on their fat-stained bear skins.
All too often those who opt to challenge books often do so for ulterior motives.   Some may opt to challenge books in school libraries just a few months prior to an important school board election, the objective being to create a little free publicity prior to an important school board election.  Often would be censors believe that a particular book or author may pose a threat to their political or religious views.    On other occasions the would be censor may well believe that a book is offensive to a given race or races. Some may be genuinely concerned about a given topic, the effect that certain material may have upon young readers,  but genuine concern for younger readers is not an excuse for poisoning the entire system for everyone else.  If you don't like a given topic, don't read about it. 
Unless someone changed the rules in this country, we have a First Amendment which guarantees  freedom of speech.  And by extension, we the readers have the right to inform ourselves.  We realize that in recent years, right wing pundits, Rush Limbaugh in particular, have proposed the truly fascist idea that there is a right to speak but not a right to be heard,, but such arguments turn the entire concept of freedom of speech ( i.e. expression on its head.  Those who make this moronic argument overlook the fact that if there is not a right to be heard (or in this case, read), then the right to freedom of speech (expression) is virtually meaningless.   In other words, this is just another argument is just an excuse to get around our constitutional rights to express and inform ourselves.   If you don't want your children reading about a particular topic, exercise your personal responsibility as a parent or guardian and exert more control over your child's  or children's activities.  But no matter what you do, stop trying to tell us and others what we can or cannot read. 
With the important exceptions of  kiddy porn and certain critical defense-related topics (the opportune word being critical), we really do not see a legitimate reason for censorship.   Whether it comes from the left or the right, the fact of the matter is that there are certain types people out there who are either so thin skinned or so intolerant that they quite literally believe that they have a right or even a duty to recreate society in accordance with their own insecurities.  And that's their problem.   Not ours.
Below is the list that we were talking about.  It is a compilation of the top 100 most challenged/banned books from 1999-2000.  [1]
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10.  Alice (Series)  by Phyllis  Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

And if you think that was bad we have news for you-- it gets even worse.   In 2005 the top ten banned books were as follows: [2]

1.  "It's Perfectly Normal" (for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group)

2.  "Forever" by Judy Blume (for sexual content and offensive language).

3.  "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger (for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group).

4.  "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier (for sexual content and offensive language)

5.  "Whale Talk" by Chris Crutcher (for racism and offensive language)

6.  "Detour for Emmy" by Marilyn Reynolds (for sexual content)

7.  "What My Mother Doesn't Know" by Sonya Sones (for sexual content and being unsuited to age group).

8.  Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey (for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence);

9.  "Crazy Lady!" by Jane Leslie Conly  (for offensive language).

10.  "It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families" by Robie H. Harris (for sex education and sexual content).

Sadly, the insanity doesn't end there.  "The Savannah Morning News reported in November 1999 that a teacher at the Windsor Forest High School required seniors to obtain permission slips before they could read Hamlet,  Macbeth,  or King Lear. The teacher's school board had pulled the books from class reading lists, citing "adult language" and references to sex and violence." [3]   Limitting access to Shakespeare?  Yeah.  Right.   That's going to save Western Civilization. 
"Many of the books tossed into the flames in Berlin that night by the joyous students under the approving eye of Dr. Goebbels had been written by authors of world reputation.  They included, among German writers, Thomas and Heinrich  MAnn. Lion Feuchtwanger, Jakob Wasserman, Arnold and Stefan Zweig, Erich Maria Remarque, Walther Rathenau, Albert  Einstein, Alfred Kerr, and hugo Press...But not only the worlds of dozens  of German writers were burned.  A good many foreign authors were also included:  Jack London, Upton Sinclaire, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, H.G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, Arthur Schnitzler, Freud, Gide, Zola Proust.  In the words of a student proclamation, any book was condemned to flames 'which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home. and the driving forces of our people.'"
From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:  A History of Nazi Germany
page 241
William L. Shirer
Simon and Schuster
New York, 1959, 1960
Jeffrey and Daniel
[1]  Americal Library Association
"100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000"
[2]  American Library Association
"Challenged and Banned Books"
[3]  From The Online Books Page
"Banned Books Online"


BEAST said...

Being born and raised in singapore, I sure know a thing or two about book banning.

Nevertheless, I flout all these rules, thanks the internet.

I am currently reading a book by Marquis de Sade, long banned for his pornographic contents. But little do these authorities know that Sade's philosophic ideals is one of the most profound during the Renaissance.

Ragnarok said...

To Kill a Mockingbird?! The Witches (an excellent CHILDREN'S book!)? Of Mice and Men? I find #100 to be deliciously ironic.

And just who is complaining about Where's Waldo?!

Apologies, I just found this post!

Anonymous said...

Many of these books are cruley punished for having indivdual thought. I don't know where the first amendment has gone, but last time I saw it, it was being flushed down the toliet by people who can't except other people thinking.