Roy Exum: Why I Love Banned Books

Sunday, September 29, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As one who feels very strongly about Freedom of Speech, it is easy to understand why I believe no one in America should ever try to ban a book from a library. The American Library Association strongly supports “the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of all viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

That is why the last week in September every year has been designated as “Banned Books Week” and, according to the library association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, during the first 10 years of this decade there were 5,099 “challenges” to have books removed from the nation’s shelves. Charges ranged from sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence, homosexuality, Satanic, occult, religious viewpoint and even anti-family.

I am absolutely delighted to find I have read dozens of “challenged” books. The reason is they are great reads! My all-time favorite is “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (offensive language, racism, unsuited for age group) but I also loved “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit) and “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls (offensive language, sexually explicit.)

“The Hunger Games,” a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, has triggered a dynamic surge of reading skills in schools all across America but – whoa! – there are those who claim her words are anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, offensive language, occult/Satanic and violent. My favorite book in junior high was “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger (sexual content, offensive language, unsuited to age group) and before that – when I was age 8 or 9 -- I read “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain (offensive language, racism).

A teacher made me read “Brave New World”  by Aldous Huxley, which I thought was a little goofy and I would have protested vehemently had I only known it was “challenged” for its insensitivity, offensive language, racism and sexual-explicitness. “My Sister’s Keeper,” the best-seller by Jodi Picoult, was challenged for the same things, plus homosexuality, religious viewpoint and unsuited for age group.

Of course, the modern-day leader is the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book that E.L. James just turned into the greatest best-sellers of all time. I’m told “Fifty Shades” and its sequels have done more to liven up marriages than Viagra. You can also credit our modern reading tablets which keep others from knowing a prim-and-proper lady is actually reading about getting tied up to the bed.

“Beloved,” the wonderful book by Toni Morrison, was tagged as sexually explicit, religious viewpoint and violence while “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker was challenged for the same things, adding “unsuited for age group.” Forget it later became one of the best movies ever.

“Of Mice And Men,” another required read back in the day, has long been kicked for offensive language but there was a loud cry to have the “Harry Potter” series ousted on charges of occult/Satanism. “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier makes the Top Ten list every year (offensive language, sexual explicit, unsuited to age groups) and “Go Ask Alice,” required at schools everywhere, is another challenged year-after-year due to drugs, sexually explicit, and offensive language.

Don’t you see? If you want to read a great book, simply ask the clerk where the banned books are kept. Seriously, go get “The Summer of my German Soldier” by Bette Greene or “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. Try “The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman or “Olive’s Ocean” by Kevin Henkes. They are all equally fabulous – and somebody wants to ban them.

The Top 10 list for 2013 is still being tabulated but in 2012 there were 464 written challenges received by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Here are the 10 books you’ll absolutely adore, in order by challenges received:

1. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, the series by Dav Pilkey (offensive language, unsuited for age group)

2. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie (offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)

3. THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher (drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age groups)

4. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, by E.L. James (offensive language, sexually explicit)

5. AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson (homosexuality, unsuited for age groups)

6. THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini (homosexuality, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit)

7. LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green (offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age groups)

8. SCARY STORIES, a series by Alvin Schwartz (unsuited for age group, violence)

9. THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls (offensive language, sexually explicit)

10. BELOVED by Toni Morrison (sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence)

royexum@aol.com


During A Martin Luther King, Jr. March Is Not A Time To Campaign

It truly amazing what Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished at just 39 years of age. He changed an entire country. Dr. King was not in elected office or in any position of power. Yet, he accomplished more than any politician.  To me the Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision was an expectation of life centered in education, hard work, and accomplishment that in time would evolve ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What Else $3 Can Mean

Orchard Knob Middle School, located on North Highland Park Avenue in Chattanooga, led every other secondary school in the state of Tennessee last year with 6.8 percent of its students expelled. So as people are working feverishly to keep the school from being taken over by the state’s Department of Education, allow me to pose a question. Last Friday during the last period of ... (click for more)

Sheriff Deputies Involved In Shooting After Pursuit Tuesday Night In Soddy Daisy

An officer-involved shooting took place in Soddy Daisy on Tuesday night following "an ongoing pursuit which originated earlier in the evening." The shooting incident happened around 7 p.m. The chase started shortly after 5 p.m. Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies were involved in the shooting. The Sheriff's Office said m ultiple law enforcement agencies responded ... (click for more)

City Council Told Cost Has Soared For Moving Sewer Line Off Tubman Industrial Site

City Council members were told on Tuesday that the cost has soared for moving a sewer line completely off the Harriet Tubman industrial site. Bill Payne, city engineer, said it initially was around $1.5 million, but is now pegged at over $4 million. Councilman Chris Anderson, who heads the council's economic development committee, said the assertion brought "stunned looks" ... (click for more)

Tyner Outshoots Brainerd In Big 6-AA Battle

Brainerd’s Jackson-High Gymnasium was filled to capacity long before the girls game had ended Tuesday night, but the overflow crowd had come to see the second meeting between Tyner and Brainerd and a battle for first place in District 6-AA. Both are ranked in the latest state Class AA poll with Tyner listed sixth and Brainerd ninth.  Brainerd had won all four meetings ... (click for more)

No. 3 Cleveland Sneaks Past Walker Valley 59-51

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – State-ranked Cleveland blew most of a 13-point second-half lead, but got clutch field goals from Deontae Davis and KK Curry down the stretch and managed to stay unbeaten in District 5-3A high school basketball action with a hard-fought 59-51 victory over rival Walker Valley on Tuesday night. Walker Valley’s girls defeated the Lady Blue Raiders 43-39 in overtime. ... (click for more)