Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our Favorite Banned Books

In honor of Banned Books Week, we would like to share our favorite banned/challenged books with you. Naturally, for bibliophiles such as ourselves, it is very difficult to pick favorite books, especially favorite banned books because we love so many of them, but we will make a valiant effort for the sake of you, the reader.

While some of my absolute favorite books of all-time are frequently challenged (the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, almost anything by Robert Cormier), when I think of my favorite banned book, I always come up with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I can see why it would be challenged, especially in the context of a high school reading list. There are some big, scary, complex, controversial ideas in it, particularly for adolescent minds. I don't want to sound like I'm looking down on adolescents (I was just there, after all) but developing minds are easily influenced, and books like Brave New World can make a huge impact on them.

My favorite part of the book is the first part, where Huxley describes how society is, with their bottled fetus-growing and rampant unabashed sexuality and shunning of solitude. But I set more store in setting and characters than I do in plot, so this sort of thing appeals to me more.

The worst part is all the Shakespeare references. I took an entire semester on Shakespeare, including reading the entirety of two plays that I know Brave New World references, and I still know that I'm missing a lot whenever John speaks in this book. I pick up a little more each time, and if I made more of an effort to understand the references, I bet I would enjoy more of the second half of the book.

I think Brave New World is timeless. It was first published in 1931 and other than the occasional reference to technology that makes the modern reader scoff (none of which I can call to mind, and I just re-read this a few weeks ago, so they can't be too egregious) it feels like it could have been written any year.

While I am similar to Alex in loving me some banned book repeats like the HP series and Mr. Cormier, I have a completely different love of a very particular banned book and have for a very, very long time.

I have had an almost life long obsession with Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (which is interesting because there is another book by her which is on my all time least favorite books list.  Curiouser and Curiouser.)  It actually hasn't made the list since 2003, when it was on for two years.  However, it made the top ten list from 1990-2000.  

Little known fact: the book actually stemmed from an incident in Paterson's life.  The son of her best friend was struck by lightning and killed.

Usually, Bridge to Terabithia is targeted because it deals with language, death and, some claim, satanism.  I first read this book in the fifth grade and was never struck much by the language (Jesse says "Lord" a lot and I do believe the word "Damn" is said.)  The language is nothing harsher than what most kids at that age hear around them every day.

Also, I think fifth grade is just about the right age for kids to be old enough to deal with things like death and the emotions that come with it.  They're starting to get to the age when people in their life might die.  Grandparents or great-aunts and uncles might be passing away at this point in their lives.  If we expect them to deal with it in the real world, then why shouldn't we also trust that they can handle it in the books that they read?  In fact, isn't reading about grief in their books only going to better prepare them for grief in their everyday lives? I'd like to think so.

As for the satanism?  Well, ok, some might call it satanism.  But those of us who live in the world of books just like to call it imagination.  I think that parents who sit there and say that Paterson is preaching a world of anti-Christian values have forgotten what it's like to be a kid.  They've forgotten what it's like to fight off monsters with a wooden stick.  Thankfully, Paterson didn't.

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