Hooray for Banned Books


Hooray for Banned Books

By Natalie Bright

Children’s Literature celebrated Banned Books Week Sept. 21-27. Hooray for that because I’ve discovered many wonderful books from these types of lists. Take for example the news that a large school district in Texas has banned The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Written in first-person “diary” format, it’s the inner thoughts of a teen so it’s raw, realistic, inappropriate; just like teenagers. The main character faces bullies, alcoholic parents, racism, abusive adults, sex, cuss words; just like life.

It’s written for YA (young adult) audience which means this is a story for older teenagers. As the mother of two teenaged boys, I absolutely believe in the power of parents to control the materials our children have access to. (What parent hasn’t cringed at the mention of internet?) I understand how inappropriate teenagers can be and how shocking some of their questions are, but they’re also funny, charming, and crazy smart. Kids today continually amaze me. It doesn’t mean every teenager is into any of the topics covered in a YA novel. Sherman Alexie’s book doesn’t promote a certain kind of life style. These topics exist in our world, in a teens world. This book is for high school aged teens and, in my opinion, should not be in grade school or Jr. High libraries.

Based on the author’s own experiences, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is about a main character who leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white high school 22 miles away. It’s a story about following your dreams, finding acceptance, facing adversity, and coming through as a winner. It’s a story with loads of HEART. I loved this book.

Opinions are subjective. For as many people who hate a book, you’ll find just as many who love it. I’ve discovered so many wonderful stories through these kinds of lists, so hooray for banned books! Let’s work together to promote the joys and privilege of reading a great story. Let’s broaden the world view for our children and open the dialogue. Let’s do more talking, reading, learning, and less judging.

Writers Take Action:

1) Post an online review of one of your favorite stories from childhood. Ask your kids what’s one of their favorites. Post an online review of that book too. By promoting each others work, we’re also promoting the joys of reading.

2) Choose one book from a Banned Books List and read it.

nataliebright.com

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BANNED


BANNED

by Sharon Stevens

While going through some boxes at the bookstore I came across an old Uncle Remus book published in 1903. Never in my life for whatever reason have I read any of these stories and I found such treasures within. Books have never been banned in our house. My parents, especially my mom let us read whatever we chose within reason. They never discriminated or guided us in our reading habits, so it is foreign to me to think that there could be a culture that would destroy any kind of creative thinking.

Getting into the book I didn’t think I would be able to muddle through only because the writing was so fragmented with the talk of the times and diction of the south. But I found once I got into the rhythm of the words, like Shakespeare, the life of the story came together. Brer’ Rabbitt, Mr. Cricket, Wiley Wolf, and Brother Fox shared through the pages parables that are centuries old.

There is a chapter in the first part where Uncle Remus is sitting at the dinner table encouraging the young master to eat per the grandmother’s order. The grandmother was concerned that the mother was only serving the child simple fair, and that he needed ham, potatoes, biscuits and gravy to grow big and strong. Uncle Remus said the grandmother had written a message of love on the dishes and the little boy exclaimed that he couldn’t see any words there. Remus replied.

….“But I weren’t callin’ out no letters; I wuz callin’ out de words what yo’ granmammy writ wid de dishes.’

Uncle Remus wanted to share that the grandmother held her grandchild close to her heart and showed so much love that she would risk the displeasure and outright anger of her son and daughter-in-law and be brave enough to enlist the help of the wise, and elderly, old plantation slave to do it.

Uncle Remus, the story, and therefore the character have been banned for years along with such tales as “Huckleberry Finn”, and “Treasure Island”. But on this the 30th anniversary of banned books includes, “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, the “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins”, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor, “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “A Light In the Attic” by Shel Silverstein and “Bridge To Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson.

Most are challenged or censored because of demonstrating racism, insensitivity, offensive language, violence, occult and satanic themes, but these are also pulled off the library shelves because families don’t feel comfortable with the message they are sending their children. And don’t forget this also affects the school and public libraries as well as the bookstores such as Hastings or Barnes and Nobles and the publishing houses as well.

One of the books banned this year and in years past is “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee for racism and offensive language. This year the Social Justice department at WTAMU will be hosting the woman who played, “Scout” in the movie. The professors and students will be discussing discrimination and how it pertains to our area and the here and now. They are working with the Varsity Theatre here in Canyon about showing the film.

I will never second guess a parent and their wisdom in raising their own children. I am just proud that I was given the chance to read anything and everything at an early age. Hopefully my husband and I have passed that on to our children and they will pass this on as well.

As writers we never know when someone will find our words offensive, insensitive, or political. At any given moment our thoughts might be seen as anti-ethnic and anti-family no matter how color blind or family oriented it may seem. On the other hand we can’t censor our own story or characters frightened that we may offend across the board. This causes us to lose the spirit, heart and passion ingrained deep in the soul of the letters formed together to make words. Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace taught me in writing class to be always true to what we believe and to trust the story we are writing. And just think, even though it was written for adult market, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James would have never seen the light of day if censors had challenged the book in the very beginning.

So on this anniversary of the week of Banned Books look through the list and cherish the Freedom we have to celebrate the joy of reading, and the Freedom to choose on our own.

I leave you with this beautiful passage from the book of Uncle Remus:

TOLD BY UNCLE REMUS

New stories of the Old Plantation

by Joel Chandler Harris 1903

“The little boy was sitting on Uncle Remus’s knee, and he turned suddenly and looked into the weather-beaten face that had harbored so many smiles. The child seemed to be searching for something in that venerable countenance, and he must have found it, for he allowed his head to fall against the old shoulder and held it there. The movement was as familiar to Uncle Remus as the walls of his cabin, for among all the children he had known well, not one had failed to lay his head where that of the little boy now rested.”

Sharon Stevens