In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to post a banned book recommendation each day. I have only used only books I’ve read from the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the decade (2010-2019), with the partial exception of the book I am currently reading.
BANNED & CHALLENGED BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS
Since today is the last day of Banned Books Week, I thought I’d wrap up with brief comments on the other books I’ve read from the above list, as well as talk about my current read.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
–an engrossing young adult novel, partially autobiographical, of an American Indian boy growing up on a reservation. He’s transferred to another school where he is the only Indian student and must struggle to fit into two worlds. Although I read this several years ago, I remember deeply empathizing with the main character, and it gave me a completely different perspective on the struggles of American Indians.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
–a beautifully written and tragic story of an abused and neglected little girl. As an African American child, she is constantly referred to as ugly and longs for blue eyes (which she equates with whiteness) so she will be loved. As a blue-eyed blonde caucasion woman, this book made me feel terrible, which I think was part of the point. If you want to feel good, this isn’t a happy read, but if you want to see how racist views on appearance leave emotional scars, this book is amazing.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
–I read this book years ago for school, so honestly I don’t have much memory of the plot other than the part where they explain the title: “To kill a mockingbird is a sin” because all they do is make the world a little better. Honestly, as I write this I realize I should probably reread the book anyway, because it’s a really good novel.
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
–I went through a phase where I read a lot of dystopias, and I found this one really interesting. The idea of good girls being promiscuous (the opposite of how I was raised), the idea of monogamous love being selfish, and this perfectly regimented society looked upon by outsiders is fascinating. Fair warning though, the ending is weird.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
–I love this book, and it made me cry.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
–Another classic that made the list. Often because it uses racist terms like “the n-word,” although in the beginning of the book Twain explains that he wrote the novel using the dialogue of the time and place. In other words, be mad at reality, not him. There are other problematic things with the book worth mentioning, namely that the runaway slave Jim comes off overly simple at times, but I took that as a reflection of his being uneducated because of his slave status; Huck is also uneducated as well as superstitious. The long and short of it is, if you haven’t read this, you need to. Not only is it an amazing read, it’s an ingrained part of American culture.
The Holy Bible
–It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Christian Bible makes the list: people argue over different editions, and it contains sex, incest, murder, basically every sin you could possibly imagine. Religion is often a source of controversy. And while I have read large portions of the Bible in pieces, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have not read it in its entirety.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
–I actually read this book fairly recently and was both fascinated and horrified by the exploits of its characters. I will say this though: the book has a much better ending than the film, and it did make me think.
I’d like to mention this book was not banned in Texas (as has been widely misreported). It was challenged, temporarily removed from shelves, but ultimately returned and available for checkout. The original edition of Diary of a Young Girl, a classroom staple for years, was not disputed: However, the challenged edition of Anne Frank’s diary is not the one most school children read growing up, but rather a graphic adaptation based on her complete diary. Social media has claimed that this was banned, which is false.
The one most of us are familiar with had been edited to remove material considered too personal. In Texas, the graphic adaptation was challenged, most likely because of references to homosexuality and female genitalia, but ultimately not banned.
A challenge means that someone has an objection to a library book’s availability, usually either because of age appropriateness or some other reason. The challenge is the process by which books are determined to be kept on shelves or removed from circulation (which would be considered a ban). The challenge was issued the previous school year, the book (along with others) was removed temporarily from library shelves, read and voted upon, and ultimately returned to circulation. However, shortly before the next school year began, a new school board was elected; they instituted new criteria for books which resulted in many books being temporarily removed from shelves so that the process could be redone under the new guidelines. Basically, politics.
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation is authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, includes direct quotes from the definitive edition, and has won awards. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, which I digitally checked out via my local library, but it seems close to what I remember of the original book, with the illustrations taking some artistic license below direct quotes from the original text. So when Anne complains about her fights with her mother, the illustrations show her arguing and supposes what was said; I’m not sure how much artistic license was used since it’s been so long since I read the original diary. The illustrations are amazing though; seeing the layout of the hidden living quarters was especially helpful, and the artwork complements the text to produce a uniquely moving story.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my week of posts in honor of Banned Books Week. If you’d like to read more of my work, you can subscribe to my Patreon and support my writing for just $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!
*sources: Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district – The Washington Post, Anne Frank graphic novel to be reinstated in Texas school district following controversy – The Jewish Chronicle (thejc.com),