"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


A blog for readers and writers

A blog about the stories we tell each other and how we tell them...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Banned Books

British libraries are launching a range of events to celebrate brilliant books that have been banned.
The list of 50 makes surprising reading. Included is:
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. 
Apparently it was no.37 on the American Library Association's 100 most frequently challenged books 1990 - 2000. Some claimed it was anti Christian and pornographic. I remember being reluctant to read anything else by Margaret Atwood after this, scared that she couldn't possibly equal it.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Banned by some American libraries and schools because of its violent and sexual content. Ye Gods! That's one way of silencing survivors of  violence... 
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
An extraordinary book of great heart and intelligence. John Irving has a distinctive voice, no one else writes quite like him. 
It's been banned in some US states because of its criticism of the  Vietnam War and Iran-Contra, so that's another reason to go buy it.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L Frank Baum
This one really surprised me. It has been banned by many libraries in different American states for different reasons - in the South because of witches being referred to as 'good' and in the 1950s in a wave of anti Communist hysteria because it was thought to have socialist values. It's a long time since I read it but the left wing flavour passed me by unless anything intelligent that explores the human condition and doesn't talk down to children has to come under the heading of socialism.

But America doesn't have the monopoly on bad decisions.
Until quite recently any Irish author worth reading was banned in their own country. It's no surprise to find Edna O'Brien on  this list because her unsentimental look at life as it was lived in the 1960s was just too much to take. But the fact that John McGahern lost his job as a teacher because of The Dark is even more revealing of a time and a way of thinking. His crime was that his beautifully written novel suggested that some priests sexually abused children...
But the one that really gave me pause for thought was The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Of course it shouldn't be on this list, or indeed any list of books worth reading, but I didn't realise that Christian leaders in the Lebanon went so far as to ban it. Sadly, not on the grounds of good taste.
 click on the title of this post to look at all 50 books


Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall said...

RE: the Wizard of Oz
Baum was an out and out socialist. This is very clear in the sequels he wrote, several of which describe a clear socialist utopia. When I was young, we read all the Oz books. But now I guess even schools that don't ban the first one discourage students from reading all of them. Do you suppose this was a bad influence on me - in other words why I became a Marxist? I wonder. I write about my unusual political evolution - as well as a close encounter with US intelligence - in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (www.stuartbramhall.com). I currently live in exile in New Zealand.

Bridget Whelan said...

Thanks for this - you forced me to look more closely at Baum & I've written another post.
Do think he thought of himself as a socialist? I know the label has strong negative connotations in the US & that's not quite the same here in the UK (at least not in my house!)

Anne Bennett said...

I have been blogging about Banned Booksband this week and I came upon your comment on the NY Times Website. Please take a look at my diary entries on book banning. As much as I hate to admit it, censorship is alive and well in America. Just tonight my husband came upon an article in the newspaper about a textbook committee in Texas has voted 7 to 6 to ban information in social studies textbooks about the Islamic faith. Egads, How small minded!

Bridget Whelan said...

Thanks for this and directing me to the NY article and your own blog - I'm now a follower. I also voted in your poll for best banned book - my vote went to The Color Purple. It made me cry in the first 300 words (description of the way a new born curls its fingers)...