Sensing censorship

"In honor of Banned Book Week, one of my professors asked everyone in the class to pick out a banned book and read part of it during class. I searched online for a book that fulfilled two necessary requirements: a book that was, or currently is, banned and something I’ve already read. In my quest for such a book, I came across the American Library Association website. As one of the many sponsors of Banned Book Week, the ALA’s website, among other things related to the week, features a comprehensive list of the many books that have been banned in schools across the country.

"

"As I scrolled through the list, I came across titles that didn’t surprise me. I grew up hearing about school districts wanting to ban J.K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter" series because it supposedly promotes witchcraft and Satanism. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker contains graphic sexual and violent content. Both of George Orwell’s masterpieces, "1984" and "Animal Farm," can be argued to have a pro-Communist message to them.

"

"Yet there were numerous titles on the list that came as a shock; classic novels such as "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Great Gatsby," "The Lord of the Rings," "The Giver" and "The Diary of Anne Frank" are all on this list. I was wondering why these standard novels in middle and high school English classes across the country were on the list, so I did a little research. These books were banned or challenged, because of things like "promotion of suicide," "sexually explicit," "profanity," "racism" and "satanic" frequently came up. After reading these explanations, I wondered if I had read the same books.

"

"Many of these books have positives that greatly outweigh what are considered to be the negatives (or are misread as negative). At the root of the "Harry Potter" series, it is a story about how love is the most powerful thing in the world, even defeating the most sinister of evils. "To Kill a Mockingbird" shows a man who stands up for what he believes in, even when the odds are against him. "The Color Purple" follows a woman who overcomes a life of abuse and becomes strong in soul and mind. Throughout "The Diary of Anne Frank," there is a message of how hope can be present even in times of darkness. I don’t know about you, but these are ideals I want today’s children to know.

"

"I acknowledge that several of these banned books don’t quite have the same inspirational message as others. Take "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" for instance, which chronicles severe abuse in a mental institution. "A Clockwork Orange" includes scenes depicting rape, extreme violence and forced psychological treatment. I think it’s safe to say that these are the books you would not turn to for a feel-good evening.

"

"But these books are written in such a way that captivates the reader and encourages them to read more. Many of the books on the banned book list have been the catalyst for people to a life filled with the love of reading because of the interesting stories, engaging characters and descriptive language. Think about how many times someone has said "Harry Potter," "The Lord of the Rings" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" was the book that got them interested in reading.

"

"Furthermore, many of these books on the list have given a voice to generations and have become a common link between those generations. For six decades, young people have called "The Catcher in the Rye" the book that changed their lives. How many things in pop culture can do that?

"

"In a society where it seems kids are more interested in controllers and keyboards than turning pages, these books are the books that continuously get new generations interested in reading. Yes, these books deal with difficult and complex subject matters, often presenting them in an honest light. But, lets face it, life in general is difficult and complex. If we don’t encourage the next generation to face these issues in an honest fashion, we’ll be dealing with an ignorant and confused society.