Friday, September 13, 2013

Banning the Books that Shaped America

I recently read an interesting article about some of the books from the Library of Congress's exhibit on the books that shaped America, about the books on the list that have been banned.

The following books, which reflect our history and culture and have helped to make us who we are, appear on the banned book lists:
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain*
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison*
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London*
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller*
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger*
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway*
  • Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  • The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck*
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald*
  • Howl, Allen Ginsberg
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison*
  • The Jungle, Upton Sinclair*
  • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman*
  • Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville
  • Native Son, Richard Wright
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane*
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne*
  • Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams*
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston*
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak*
  • The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez
That's a staggering list. Read the article to find out why  they were banned, and where.

I've read 18 of these 29 books (marked with *), if you include the one I'm reading now, and some others are high on my to-read list. Others don't really interest me much. I can't imagine the impact on my life if I had been restricted from reading these books. I've learned a tremendous about writing and about life from these books, and the ideas in those pages have helped shape the person I am.



Every time a school or a library removes one of these books, they rob students and the community of the opportunity to expand their view of the world, to think about the world in a new way and to experience the artful delivery of words and ideas. The potential cost of each of these removals is staggering. Imagine your own life without the ones you've read.