We are into Day 2 of Banned Books Week 2011 and the Banned Books Read–Out.For our Facebook followers, we have an open event going on all this week: Simple Pleasures Banned Books Week Read-Out!
Follow this link to the Event Post and join in!
We are also doing our second post for Banned Books Week Blogathon sponsored by fellow WordPress blogger, Sheila DeChantal at BOOK JOURNEY
One of the banned/challenged books we are reading this week is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This compelling book is filled with the recollections and reflections of the author’s life, beginning with her move back to the South ( Stamps, Arkansas) to live with her grandmother after her parent’s divorce. Angelou’s story is not always a pretty story, but it is an inspiring one. That she lived through, survived and thrived despite the hardships of her childhood is a testimony to both her personal strength and the enduring strength of the human spirit.
Listen to a portion of the audio-book version here: AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT: “I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS’
In reflecting on this book, I wanted to look into the reasons why this account of an imminent author’s life has so constantly been challenged over the years. This is what I found :
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ( Challenges from 2001-2010)
Restricted to students with parental permission at the Ocean View School District middle school libraries in Huntington Beach (CA) because the “book’s contents were inappropriate for children.” Challenged in the Newman-Crows Landing (CA) School District on a required reading list presented by the Orestimba High English Department. A trustee questioned the qualifications of Orestimba staff to teach a novel depicting Afican American culture.
Challenged in the Manheim Township (PA) schools. The book was retained in the 9th grade English curriculum, but it will be taught later in the year after a public forum was held with parents to discuss the book and the entire literary canon of the English Department. Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene ID) School District. Some parents say the book, along with 5 others, should require parental permission for students to read them.
Retained in the Fond du Lac (WI) HS sophomore advanced English class. Parents had objected to teens reading Angelou’s account of being brutally raped by her mother’s boyfriend and an unwanted pregnancy later in life. Parents will receive notification and be allowed to decide whether or not they approve of its use by their children.
Removed as required reading from Annapolis (MD) freshman English curriculum because of rape scene and other mature content.
Challenged for racism, homosexuality, sexual content, offensive language and unsuited to age group.
Challenged as required reading in Hamilton (MT) freshman English class due to sexual exploration by teenagers, rape and homosexuality. Challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools for “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture”.
Banned for language and being too explicit in the book’s portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse.
Challenged for being on the Poolesville (MD) high school reading list for sexual content and language
While it’s important for parents to be part of their children’s reading choices, one parent’s discretion and judgement should never supersede another’s. That is often the result of books being banned/ challenged/ removed from libraries and curriculum. Yes, we realize one can always go to a bookstore or access the book through an online outlet, either in print or digitally in most cases. However, the biggest rebuttal to that argument is one of ACCESS. Not all parents or children have the resources to purchase a book that should be freely available. Public and school libraries are the great economic equalizer when it comes to educating our children. When a child’s curiosity is piqued in the classroom, they can follow that road of interest in the stacks of their school and public libraries… at least they should be able to. Books such as Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are important for young adults to read, because they show not only the importance of our words and actions to others, but how we handle pain, fear and disappointment. Important and valuable lessons for all of us.
I’ll be posting more on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings later in the week…
To wrap up our post for Day 2 of Banned Books Week, I’d like to mention the addition of one of Simple Pleasures favorite authors on the list of Banned Challenged Books for 2010/11. This year, Larry Baker’s book The Flamingo Rising was added.
A little about The Flamingo Rising:
“My name is Abraham Isaac Lee, and I am my father’s son. This is a story about Land and Love and a Great Fire that consumed my father’s dreams.”
So begins the tale of Abraham Isaac Lee, the adopted Korean son of Hubert Lee and Edna Scott, who looks back at his childhood in the 1950s and ’60s in Jacksonville, Florida. Hubert Lee, a deeply eccentric southerner, settles there after the Korean War and moves his family into The Flamingo — a drive-in movie theater that boasts the world’s largest outdoor screen. The Flamingo, an instant success, stirs a bitter yet hilarious feud between Hubert Lee and mortician Turner West. West, who owns the neighboring funeral home, cannot bear the proximity of the 150-foot-high screen (he actually shoots at its huge neon cowboy marquee daily). Pride — and love for Edna Scott — pits these two men against each other in an unwinnable battle for land and power. To make matters worse, Abraham falls deeply in love with Grace, Turner West’s only daughter.
The challenge was as follows:
Challenged on the Stevenson High School,
Lincolnshire, Ill. summer reading list (2010)
because a parent complained that “a sexual
encounter depicted in the novel was definitely
something you could consider X-rated.”
When I contacted the author, who was unaware of the challenge, he was at least partially amused/surprised by the nature of the challenge and retorted, “…But, seriously, my book was attacked for being too sexual? Better tell that to the teachers who assign it in Catholic schools.”
This just goes to show how arbitrary and without any kind of merit these challenges are. When I told Larry we were putting together a collection of author quotes on books, censorship and reading, I asked if he would like to add one of his own. He responded with the following… and we couldn’t agree more…
“A good novel is always true, and the truth is always a threat to the weak and insecure.” Larry Baker, The Flamingo Rising
More Notable Quotes on Books, Censorship and Reading :
“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.
So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
― Oscar Wilde
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
[D]on’t ever apologize to an author for buying something in paperback, or taking it out from a library (that’s what they’re there for. Use your library). Don’t apologize to this author for buying books second hand, or getting them from bookcrossing or borrowing a friend’s copy. What’s important to me is that people read the books and enjoy them, and that, at some point in there, the book was bought by someone. And that people who like things, tell other people. The most important thing is that people read… ”
― Neil Gaiman
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.”
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
― Joseph Brodsky
A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
― Garrison Keillor
“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“My grandma always said that God made libraries so that people didn’t have any excuse to be stupid.”
― Joan Bauer, Rules of the Road
“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
― Nora Ephron, You’ve Got Mail
“Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower
And finally, from the classic literary standard on the subject of book burning, and the first book I ever read that made me righteously indignant
“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, “Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.” Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451