The library people have designated Sunday as the first day of Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to read and spotlighting current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.
I know. I’ve spouted off about this before, but I recently re-watched the movie Field of Dreams, and this topic is near and dear to me.
Back in a previous life, when I managed the local Brentano’s Bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, we would set up a display of some of the books that had been banned for whatever reason in the past by libraries, schools and even other bookstores.
Some of those we would put on display included Huckleberry Finn, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, The Call of the Wild, The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, Gone With the Wind, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, Stranger in a Strange Land, Where the Wild Things Are, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Catch-22 and even Mr. Webster’s dictionary.
As one might expect, once you tell people a book has been banned, it flies out of the store.
The funny thing is, the balance of those titles are considered classics, and some are on school reading lists.
Suffice it to say, I’ve read all those, but once in Junior High, I got sent to the principal’s office after being caught reading a copy of On The Road.
It was Confucius who said, “You cannot open a book without learning something.” And it’s true. At 14-years-old I did find out a few things from Jack Kerouac.
The reasons for the all-too-common bannings are varied, but most seem to be verboten for profanity, sexual content, perceived racism, or religious convictions.
Currently, the most frequently challenged or banned books have been (besides a few from the above list) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls and all of the Harry Potter books.
Speaking of the above-mentioned Confucius, today is his 2,754th birthday. I don’t think any of his writings have ever been banned, but he sure has left us with some great proverbs, not to mention quips for Charlie Chan. I don’t know if he ever said, “The wise man changes his socks every day,” or “Don’t track mud all over your wife’s nice clean floor,” but he did say, “An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger,” and “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
My favorite: “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”
Pardon me while I digress.
I was reading an article in the Journal a while back about how a lot of older folks in New Mexico are continuing to work their jobs way past the customary retirement age, and I got to thinking. This is one of those things no one tells us when we were younger about growing old, that it’s not a bad thing to put in a good day’s work even after you get up in years.
I realize most under the age of probably 60 don’t like to think about being a senior, but believe it or not, there are benefits. For instance, my ability to remember the lyrics of a song from the 1970s far outweighs my ability to remember why I walked into the kitchen.
End of digression.