Chapter 8 - Banned Book Club


Here we go again. The latest state to decide that they know best about books children/young people should or shouldn't read is Tennessee. Not only has a Tennessee school district removed Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman as obscene from curriculum but now the Tennessee legislature is considering a bill aimed at removing books which are considered obscene from school libraries. Maus, by the way, tells the story of the Holocaust as experienced by a Polish family. So where do teachers and librarians come down on this issue? Well, not only do Tennessee school librarians feel there are processes in place to keep library materials age appropriate but school librarians across the country tend to denounce banning books. “We oppose censorship within school libraries on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and contrary to the professional ethics of librarianship,” said a statement from the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, the Tennessee Library Association, and Friends of the Tennessee Libraries. "Every book is not for every reader, but every child should have access to books they may want to read,” last fall’s statement said.


Needless to say, you cannot get a copy of Maus for love or money - even the book behemoth Amazon is out of stock of this product. Apparently 2021 was a big year for banning books in school. The majority of books banned included themes of LGBTQ+ but some old standards like To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison were also banned.


To add insult to this latest banning injury, a pastor in Tennessee recently had a book burning party wherein he encouraged his congregation to bring forth all their Harry Potter and Twilight books to feed the flames. Apparently the books are full of witchcraft, sorcery, and evil but Pastor Greg Locke doesn't seem to know that C.S. Lewis, well known Christian apologist, also wrote books featuring sorcery and witchcraft (The Chronicles of Narnia). Shut the front door, Tennessee, what is happening to you?


If either of these events remind you of an earlier time (1930's), in a distant country, I am not surprised. Banning books only makes people want to read them more so it truly defeats the purpose. I say let parents decide what their children should read until they feel their children are able to make their own decisions.


So, if you are feeling a bit subversive (and underneath my quiet exterior I am in fact a reading rebel), here are some books to try besides the ones listed above.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - a scorcher since 1884!


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - hope you can stand the profanity.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger - beware of the negative activity.


Looking for Alaska by John Green - no teenager ever uses profanity or thinks about sex, right?


By the way here is my own personal experience with banned books - I was 14 years old and had picked up a copy of Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann at our local library. It was sitting on our coffee table when one of my mom's friends stopped in. When she questioned if my mom was reading it, Mom said that I was. The friend proceeded to tell my mom that the book had been banned by the Catholic Church. My mother said, "I'd rather Vicki read it in front of me than behind my back." Thanks for that wisdom Mom!


Let me know what you think about banning or burning books!