WTF Friday: J2 Rants

Or just teach your children to be a filter, not a sponge.  YOUR call.

Stop Challenging My Favorite Books!  Who Knows Who They Might Inspire, Ignite or Touch!!

By J2

As much as I don’t agree with banning a book from your child/family (read it together and discuss ::GASP:: open communication!) I can conceptually understand why someone would not want their child to read something, I really can.  But, where the frack do you get off telling me and mine what we can and can’t read?  Why does the book have to be stricken from course outlines and ripped from the public’s reach?


I can’t speak for everyone’s high school, but all of the teachers I’ve had K-12 would provide an alternate assignment to anyone who seriously objected to the material being presented.  I knew several people who’s parents objected to a book, or a student who objected to a movie, that were excused from the assignment or the class period the day of discussions/viewings and given take home work instead. Heck, I got out of dissecting a frog in the 7th grade because I was able to construct a valid argument for why I felt it was wrong (poor things are bred to be dissected!).  Not once was I aware of a situation where a teacher was instructed to alter the entire class’s curriculum due to the grievances of one family – and for that I have a deep amount of gratitude and appreciation for my teachers and school librarians.

It disturbs me to think that there is anyone out there who strongly believes that the public schools they send their children to are honestly out to demoralize and corrupt their children through literature (conspiracy theorists and republicans pipe down for today… ;).  It takes a massive amount of ignorance topped off with a helping of arrogance to believe that the books weren’t carefully and delibriately chosen to inspire, impact, educate, or inform students by utilizing some of the great minds of our country past and present.

Listed below are the banned and/or challenged books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century.  I’m proud to say I’ve read 17,own 13, and have had the rest in my ever extending “to read” pile for quite some time (I’m down right smug if you were wondering :).

Have you read any of the books listed?  If you have, how did the book affect you?J2 provides brief commentaries on the bannings under a few books below:

**The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald:  One of the best books ever.

**The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger:  I read this book when I was 16 in the summer between junior and senior year because a boy I was massively crushing on was reading it.  I don’t remember the book or the boy, I should dig out my copy…and Facebook stalk the boy in the meantime.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

**To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee:  Fun Fact – a little town in Minnesota banned this book in the 70’s because it used the word “whore”.  Had this book been successfully banned, like 30+ emo bands would be nameless right now.  Would the word “ironic” be appropriate?  (get it banned/band?  ok I’ll be quiet)

**The Color Purple, Alice Walker:  This book as well as The Temple of My Familiar (also by Walker) have stayed with me for over ten years.  Alice Walker has a talent for descriptive language, so I can see why parents wouldn’t want their children reading what some may describe as “explicit sex scenes”.  But her books are so much more than the acts she describes and students deserve to be able to read them.

Ulysses, James Joyce – Fun Fact:  Burned in 1918, just jumped to the top of my to read list.

Beloved, Toni Morrison:  A school pulled the book with students having no more than 30 pages left and discussions were halted.  What could the challenger possibly have accomplished by this act?

*The Lord of the Flies, William Golding – Banned in the 80’s because it was “Demoralizing as man is little more than animal” – Honey, have you sat in grid locked traffic before?  Been to a store on Christmas Eve?  Stood in line for anything?  Tried to get off a plane before your row’s turn?  We are just little more than animal.  Be thankful we have language and read this book as many times as you can.

*1984, George Orwell

**Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov

*Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck – I sincerely do not remember foul language being used prominently throughout the book.  I may need to read it again and wash my own mouth out with soap.

**Catch-22, Joseph Heller

**Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

*Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Their Eyes were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Native Son, Richard Wright

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey:  Ever notice how almost every banned book has made an amazing film?  Quite a lot of Oscar winners and nominees…

**Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

The Call of the Wild, Jack London

Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin:  This was the only book I had no knowledge of during my University’s recent banned books week trivia, I’m a little bitter and now curious at what obscenities/racial slurs/homophobic/sexual/anti Nancy Regan remarks were told on the mountain.

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence

**A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess:  After watching the movie for a “novels” class where we read the book and then watched the movie (or vice versa) my first year of college I strongly considered asking to be assigned an alternate book/movie.  I found it profoundly disturbing and hard to watch and did not want to re-experience what I felt during the movie by reading the book.  But you know what?  There are things in life that are disturbing and not reading about them does not make them any less true.   Fun Fact:  I did not go out and pillage, rape, use foul language, do, drugs join a gang, etc., etc. after reading.

**In Cold Blood, Truman Capote:  my favorite book ever until I learned of Capote’s relationship with one of the main “characters” while researching the book.  Makes you wonder if Capote painted him as the more sympathetic man but he really was the mastermind behind the crime, or if he really was just doing as told?

Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie:  I suspect it’s often challenged on the title alone…(But, as pointed out by Bookman, I obviously didn’t realize that the Ayatola of Iran took out a hit on Mr. Rushdie’s life for criticizing Mohammed in Satanic Verses!  I haven’t read it, but definitely will now).

Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence

**Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut:  Let me guess, the book was banned because it made fun of the marines?  My very first Vonnegut read, and the first book I was introduced to in college, at the tender age of 16.  Vonnegut has been my favorite author since and Cat’s Cradle will always be one of my favorite books.

**A Separate Peace, John Knowles: I don’t know of a teenage boy who wasn’t touched by the friendship and events that take place in A Separate Peace.  While I come from a different time than those who originally tried to ban this book, I can’t see why they would want to.  I read the book at 23 years old and it was still able to impact me and I take it’s message with me to this day.

Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs

Women in Love, DH Lawrence:  Another just based on the title alone challenge I’m sure…

The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

**Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller:  Fun fact, the book is banned in Turkey.  And I feel a little dirty whenever I read the book in public…it’s probably challenged based on the cover alone.

An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser

Rabbit, Run, John Updike:  I forget the original reason why this was banned, but the conspiracy theorist in me thinks Junkie1 had the right idea on Monday

So, what’s your total?  How many banned books have you read?  Don’t feel like you’ve read enough?  Start a banned books book club today!!

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5 thoughts on “WTF Friday: J2 Rants

  1. Bookman says:

    I think you are too flip in your descriptions. Obviously, you don’t realize that the Ayatola of Iran took out a hit on Mr. Rushdie’s life for criticizing Mohammed in Satanic Verses! I found this blog earlier in the week and found the commentary (and humor) to be well informed and intelligent. Unfortunately, I find your smattering of “insights” on some of the greatest literature of all time to be duplicative and disrespectful. It’s good that you love to read, but I think you need to work on your comprehension if you can’t muster a single point from Salinger’s masterpiece.

    • Junkie2 says:

      Good points. This blog is mostly light hearted and I chose to be a little lighter in today’s post since we’ve taken a more serious turn for BBW.

    • Junkie2 says:

      Also, I just realized I didn’t edit the beginning of the post after making the decision to move from annotating/summarizing the banned material to providing light hearted commentary on the banning of the books themselves. The post has since been edited to reflect that:

      J2 provides brief commentaries on the bannings under a few books below.

    • Junkie1 says:

      I’m pickin up what you’re laying down, Bookman. I hope you come back and comment again–it’s good to know people out there feel strongly about censorship.

      I’d especially like to call out something we haven’t touched on that much this week: the serious side of banned books and revisionist history. I’m glad you brought up Rushdie’s plight. I think too many people forget that banning books is not restricted to the squeaky clean halls of American schools and right wing parents.

  2. Bookman says:

    I agree. It is too often overlooked. Education is the key element but that includes adults just as much as it does children.

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