The funny thing about doing research before you write your blog is that you get sidetracked.
Today I am writing about banned books. The week that spotlights book some groups of people try to hide from the rest of us starts on the 25th. So I thought I would look over one list. Then I checked out the ALA list.
The usual suspects were there. Judy Blume, J.D. Salinger, Henry Miller, Mark Twain, and D. H. Lawrence.
I found the Harry Potter series and Shel Silverstein. Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The Diary of Anne Frank. The last one was banned because the subject matter was found to be a real downer.
Which tends to happen when the subject matter is the Holocaust and the author/main character dies at the end.
But then I saw books on the list that made me curious. Where’s Waldo and Little House in the Big Woods. These are on the banned books list. So I decided to dig a little. What I found out is that some people have taken offense to things that are said about Indians in the Little House series.
I will grant people that. Mrs. Wilder repeats what she heard as a child that “the only good Indian is a dead one.” But you have to continue reading to find her father saying that there are good ones and bad ones just like any other group. Plus, he regularly talked to the Indians wherever they lived to help with easy co-existence. Finally, in The Long Hard Winter it is an old Indian who warns the settlers about the incoming winter that will be vicious.
Context, it is all about context whether it is Mrs. Wilder’s work or Mark Twain’s or Ralph Ellison’s. Sometimes words and phrases are used to show the wrongness of belief systems and actions. If we choose to be offended by the words but not the context or the meaning, we are missing out on something bigger that four-, five- or six-letter word.
When something is wrong you have to name it to point out what is wrong. Name it, describe it, and show the wrong thing for what it is. Sometimes in bloody, gory detail. What do these authors get? Banned because they said it.
But what about Waldo, you ask?
The children’s book that asks you to find the real Waldo in a sea of imposters got itself on the list because of what someone found on a beach. Apparently, there is a woman sunbathing with her top off in a beach scene. One web site stated they have not been able to find her – ever.
So this week I am continuing reading Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger. I will encourage my kids to read the Goosebumps and Narnia series. And I encourage you to find a book on the Banned Book list to read. After all, how will you know why the book was banned if you do not read it in the first place?