‘Tis the season of banned books, as we come out of International Banned books week. Let the inner rebel out and start reading.
Books have been getting banned or censored since people in authority realized the power of words and ideas. Banned Books Week is a campaign that celebrates the freedom and right to read and challenge censorship. Ironically banning booking draw attention to the ideas that were attempted in being silenced. Books can be banned because authorities may deem the content too controversial, too religious (or anti-religious), too immoral, too political (or not political enough), etc. We can derive a lot about the society and the authority banning books, from just seeing what is considered unacceptable. Reading banned books offers us different historical and international perspectives, and pushes us outside our comfort zones.
Here are five banned books you should definitely pick up if you haven’t already!
1. Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
This is a beautiful story of friendship between two fifth graders. Jess and Leslie made my 12-year old self dream of living in rural Virginia in my own magical kingdom in the woods. What is the reason to censoring a beautiful and innocent story about two kids? Well, Jess frequent usage of the word “Lord”, in a non- religious way, i.e. not in prayers, was not acceptable. Apparently, their imaginary magical kingdom promotes secular humanism.
Following this logic, I wonder how Harry Potter remains in print? The same people banning ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ probably want to ban it for promoting witchcraft and sorcery!
2. Sons and Lovers
Author: D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence, a quintessential outsider, was often rejected by the establishment. and most of his works were banned or censored. Sons and Lovers is among his work that was banned immediately upon publication. Sons and Lovers tell the story of Paul Morel and his family in an autobiographical manner. The book alludes to Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory, as Paul explores his many relationships. Even if one does not know the context of the Freudian theory, one can see a reason for banning in the novel’s many explicit sex scenes (and lots of it). This was not a common aspect of books of that era. However, Lawrence’s characters frequently experience moments of transcendence as their emotions are conveyed through the literary technique of pathetic fallacy (the attribution of human feelings and responses to inanimate things or animals). Nature is symbolized masterfully.
3. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Blume takes on the topic of puberty through the eyes of her 12-year old protagonist Margaret. Such books are usually in The Young Adult category. However, this book has been banned in multiple states in the US citing reasons such as profanity and the godless child. Margaret grows up without any religious affiliations due to her parents’ interfaith marriage; this deviance from the norm might just have had something to do the ban. She continuously feels like an outcast in her closely knit community and goes on a quest to explore her possibilities. This book continues to pave the way for dialogue between adolescent and pre-teen girls, and older women alike.
Author: Marjane Satrapi
The only graphic novel on this list, the protagonist of Persepolis is Satrapi. Satrapi gives an account of her life in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Expectedly, the book was banned in Iran, but rose to controversy when it was suddenly banned from public schools in Chicago. It was later revealed that it was banned because of “graphic illustrations and sexually explicit language”. Persepolis certainly includes an amount of violence and sex. Satrapi talks about how her friends and relatives were tortured, both by the Shah and by the Revolutionary government. There are illustrations of people dismembered by the authorities and also of injured soldiers. Parents and administrators in Chicago may be justifying the ban by thinking that they’re protecting kids by limiting access to this controversial graphic memoir, but there is nothing to stopping you from picking it up for some food for thought.
5. The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
I will end my list with a very popular but a fantastic piece of contemporary lit nonetheless. Personally, I do not have many favorites written by contemporary writers and I prefer to read at least 3 classics to make the new pieces more palatable. However, Hosseini’s work is an exception. Hosseini brings forth his Afghan-American heritage to paint an immaculate picture of his native land Afghanistan. Many tumultuous events are at the backdrop of the story– the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy, the Soviet intervention and the rise of the Taliban regime.The Kite Runner tells the tale of two boys, Amir and his friend Hassan.
The book is banned/challenged especially for the depiction of the ethnic feud between Pashtun and Hazara groups and for containing sexually violent content deemed age-inappropriate. The movie adaptation of the book was immediately banned in Afghanistan due to its “portrayal of Afghanis in a bad light”. Like Hosseini’s other books, it is bold and unadulterated, so if you haven’t read any of his work already, this is a great one to start with.
Read, discuss, dissuade and dissent!