Posts Tagged ‘banned books’

What Banned Books Have You Read?

Sunday, October 1st, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Banned books

Banned books

Well, it’s here again, the annual reminder that, in the Land of Free Speech, people — school boards, politicians, religious groups, censorship groups, individuals — are still trying, and sometimes succeeding, in preventing others from reading books containing other people’s free speech which they find offensive or objectionable for some reason.

    It’s Banned Books Week (Oct. 1-7), an unfortunately necessary tradition the American Library Association began in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

    Fueled by the MAGAmania fear promoted by Donald Trump and those wishing to supplant him as leader of the Republican cult, efforts to control what books teachers use to teach, what books libraries can keep on their shelves have increased significantly.

     In announcing the week, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, “This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”

   How bad is it? The association says it documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number since the organization began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The number nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. The association says most of the titles targeted were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous and people of color.

   No surprise there. Traditionally specific reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language.

     Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seeking to supplant Trump as Republican Party leader, has been aggressive in efforts to control what his state residents can read and what universities can teach, but Texas also has not been shy about attempting censorship. And a school district in North Carolina actually tried to ban Banned Book Week this year only to reverse its decision when it was reported in the news media.

   As someone who has made a living writing opinions that some might not agree with, I feel compelled to once again argue for the right of free speech and free access to whatever people want to read. Controlling what people read is, after all, a way to control how they think. And, yes, it’s a way those who lie try to hide the truth from others.

    My practice has been to list, in no particular order, banned books I have read. It’s compiled from a few lists I have found on the Internet and includes some books I had no idea were ever the target of attempted banning. 

The list:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     As always, I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. I didn’t get much response to this request last year, but, forever the optimist, I ask again. I could use some new titles.

     We are living in a time when ignorance runs rampant in much of the country. Indeed, it often seems glorified. Reading, in fact learning of any sort, is under attack by groups who seek to maintain power by discrediting education. 

   Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear repeated claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News, even though recently shown in court to be a wellspring of phony news and propaganda, is still full of outright lies. 

   It is all nonsense, created out of fear, Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of losing power, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start.

       By the way, “Captain Underpants” is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of books on the list  were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

    And, please, share your favorite banned books with us.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

They’re Still Trying to Ban Books

Friday, September 16th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos    

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

The Bayonne (N.J.) Public Library

 One of my favorite places to hang out when I was growing up in Bayonne, N.J. was the Bayonne Public Library, a magnificent, sprawling stone and concrete structure (with columns and a courtyard) that offered solitude and satisfaction for all manner of tastes. It looked important, which it was. It was a storehouse of what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we wanted to know and it was all free for the reading.

      What a deal.

       Alas, not everyone feels the same way about libraries and books. Books have been burned and banned for centuries by those who fear what they don’t understand and by those who look to control what people know and believe.

      The book-banners are alive and active in America today, encouraged by a political party that has abandoned any pretense of democratic governance in favor of a fraudulent code of moral conduct. Reasons why books have been banned or challenged in the past include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language. Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians.

       Today’s Republican Party essentially exists to protect whatever power it has by banning anything that threatens or offends the biases of its increasingly bigoted base of support. Books are high on that list. They can combat bias through knowledge, promoting greater understanding. That’s not helpful to a party built today on fear and mistrust. Accordingly, the American Library Association has declared that its theme for the 2022 Banned Books Week, which runs September 18–24, is “Books Unite Us; Censorship Divides Us.”

       It’s an effort to combat renewed efforts to remove “dangerous” books from libraries around the country.  As always, the best way to engage in this battle is to shine the light of truth on it. Books are not the enemy.

        What I have done in the past is post a list of books I have read that I have also found on various internet lists of banned books (some to my surprise) and invite readers to comment and offer titles of books they have read which also have been banned somewhere. It generally provides an excellent, eclectic reading list. It also tends to provide a sense of common purpose.

          My list, in no particular order:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

        — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     Let’s fight this together. Knowledge is power. Tell me your banned books in the comments below or via e-mail and I’ll include them in a new column for those (like me) looking for new reading material. And thank your local librarian.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

It’s No Time to be Silent, America

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

  By Bob Gaydos

   C56781E2-67D2-4EBC-941D-A0CA7A4C30E9“Stop.”

     That’s it. That’s all he or she said. It was the entire content of a message reacting to a column I wrote on Banned Books Week. In fact, it was the only reaction I got from all of Facebook when I spent a few bucks to spread my words of wisdom on the subject.

     I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of response to a column encouraging, in effect, the freedom to read as we please without interference from some “authority.” I mean, this is the land of liberty, isn’t’t it? But that’s probably a topic for another column. This one’s about that one-word effort to stifle the messenger. It’s about why, disappointing feedback or not, I won’t stop. Indeed, disappointing feedback is a primary motivator to keep spreading the message. There’s simply too much at stake and it worries me that many Americans don’t seem to be aware of the threat.

       As God, the greater consciousness, Buddha and the cashier at Hannaford‘s Supermarket are my witnesses, there are some things, even with eight decades of experience, I just don’t understand.

         Spoiler alert: If you are a MAGA believer, there are likely to be some things in this column that might cause you emotional distress. I’d hate to cause you any discomfort, so you might want to consider not reading beyond here. Otherwise, you were warned. And to those who argue that we must try to reconcile our differences, I’ve pretty much given up trying to reason with true MAGAs. Using research, facts, logic and compassion has proven to be a waste of time. I’m focusing on the other Americans, millions of them, who apparently think we’re just going thriough a tough spell. Hey, football stadiums are full again, aren’t they?

      Sure, and so are hospital emergency rooms. In fact, in some states they are overflowing and people with serious medical issues are having treatment delayed because of the flood of Covid patients. A second flood caused by a refusal by many to get vaccinated or to wear masks. 

       One of the things I don’t understand is people who call themselves healthcare workers refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Thousands resisted mandates to get vaccinated even though the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective.  Only the threat of losing their jobs convinced many to do the responsible thing. 

        Another thing I don’t understand is people who call themselves educators arguing against children and teachers wearing masks in school. Or parents attacking school board members who think teachers should not have to put their lives at risk to do their jobs and students should not become an army of miniature Covid spreaders. Teachers have proven to be adaptable and the kids will only complain about the masks if their parents do. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of educating to do.

    Which is to say, I don’t understand why people who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans, or both, regard education as an evil, as something to be derided, dismissed and avoided at all costs. In the land of opportunity, how does the pathway to greater opportunity become the enemy for so many people?

      I do understand why some who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans or both routinely attack education, spread lies and misinformation and feed on the fears of the uninformed. Power and greed. Thus has it always been.

          Maintaining the support of an uninformed mass of people seems to be the only platform of today’s Rrepublican Party. It operates solely out of fear of losing whatever power it has. It gives lip service to helping those in need, devoting most of its energy and resources to fighting the efforts of those who would truly like to reconcile our differences.

       The truth is, reconciliation is not a Republican priority. They would rather rule. I don’t understand why. I always come back to fear. Which is why I always come back to education. Autocrats depend on keeping the masses ignorant in order to maintain power. So, too, do some religious leaders. Have faith in me, they preach. Give me your money. You will be protected. Do not trust the infidel with the clever words. 

       That approach works for some in politics, too. But democracy cannot survive in that atmosphere. And, in my opinion, our brand of democracy is under attack today. I have never felt this way before. The January 6 insurrection and the continuing lies of Republican leaders that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump are the most glaring evidence of this threat. So long as Trump speaks for most Republicans and so long as most Republicans fear to contradict him, I see no chance of “reconciling our differences.“ 

       That’s why I won’t stop writing about the importance of a Free Press, about the freedom to read what we choose, about the need for truthful history to be taught in all our schools, about respecting science, and about honoring the invitation on our Statue of Liberty, to welcome, not demonize, refugees from other lands.

        I repeat, I speak not to the MAGAs, but to the large number of Americans who, I am certain, share my beliefs. We are the majority. Protect our democracy. Make sure you’re vaccinated. Teach your children the importance of education. Be a voice of tolerance. Vote. Reread “1984.”

         Don’t stop.   

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

A Week to Read Banned Books

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

   It would appear that I’m the kind of guy who, when visiting a book store (remember book stores?), headed straight to the banned book section and got comfortable. (Remember how comfortable.book stores could be?)

     I do not make this confession arbitrarily or boldly, but rather matter-of-factly. Also a bit surprisingly. Until recently, I had no idea that I was such a fan of banned books, Then, Banned Book Week showed up on Facebook and other social media calendars and I started looking at the various lists of books that have been banned or challenged, as the American Library Association puts it.

       Last year I was a few days late to mark the annual reminder of the importance of freedom of expression. This year, I’m right on time. September 26 is the start of Banned Books Week. At a time when voices of protest and outrage are being stifled, there’s not a day to waste promoting the free expression of ideas. So here’s my list, in no particular order, of banned books I have read. It’s compiled from a few lists I found on the Internet:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        —.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. I didn’t get much response to this request last year, but, forever the optimist, I ask again. I know some of you are voracious readers. So please contribute.

     We are living in a time when ignorance runs rampant in much of the country. Indeed, it often seems glorified. Reading, in fact learning of any sort, is under attack by forces — Republicans, Evangelicals if you want to be specific — who seek to maintain power by discrediting education. 

     “East Coast Elites” is supposedly an insult. Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News is full of outright lies. It’s all nonsense, created and disseminated out of fear. Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system — already challenged with adjusting to distance-learning because of Covid 19  — has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start. Even in Covid America, books are available as never before online. Some free. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” and reread “1984” on Kindle. Seemed appropriate.

       The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

      Reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language, Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians. It also sounds a lot like life and one person’s “offensive language“ is another person’s truth.

       The decision on whether any book is appropriate for a child or a teenager theoretically belongs to the parents. I say theoretically because some parents don’t get too involved in such things. My parents were not book readers, although my mother devoured at least four newspapers every day. I don’t remember them expressing an interest one way or another in what I was reading. I guess that’s a decision by default. They trusted me and my teachers. I think it eventually worked out fine for me.

       Other parents, however, are extremely interested in what their children are consuming. That can be a good thing, I think, if it allows for a variety of viewpoints and room to explore. By the way, Captain Underpants is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of my books were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

        Anyway, in a country in which clearly anyone can grow up to be president, I think it would be a good thing if he or she had actually read a book or two, including some that challenged his or her beliefs. But maybe that’s just the Orwell, Vonnegut and Salinger in me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

(This is a slightly modified version of a column from last year.)

 

Banning Books, an American Tradition

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

   It would appear that I’m the kind of guy who, when visiting a book store (remember book stores?), headed straight to the banned book section and got comfortable. (Remember how comfortable.book stores could be?)

     I do not make this confession arbitrarily or boldly, but rather matter-of-factly. Also a bit surprisingly. Until recently, I had no idea that I was such a fan of banned books, Then, Banned Book Week showed up on Facebook and other social media and I started looking at the various lists of books that have been banned or challenged, as the American Library Association puts it.

       I’m a few days late to mark the annual reminder of the importance of freedom of expression, but in a time when voices of protest and outrage are being stifled, I figure any day one can promote the free expression of ideas is a good one. So, my list, in no particular order, compiled from a few lists found on the Internet:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        —.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

     I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. And I know some of you are voracious readers. So please contribute.

     I’m writing about this because we are living in a time when reading, indeed, learning of any sort is under attack by forces — Republicans, Evangelicals if you want to be specific — who seek to maintain power by discrediting education of any kind. “East Coast Elites” is supposedly an insult. Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News is full of outright lies. It’s all nonsense, created and disseminated out of fear. Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system — already challenged with adjusting to distance-learning because of Covid — has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start. Even in Covid America, books are available as never before online. Some free. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” and reread “1984” on Kindle. Seemed appropriate. And there’s plenty of time to read. 

       The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

      Reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language, Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians. It also sounds a lot like life and one person’s “offensive language“ is another person’s truth.

       The decision on whether any book is appropriate for a child or a teenager theoretically belongs to the parents. I say theoretically because some parents don’t get too involved in such things. My parents were not book readers, although my mother devoured at least four newspapers every day. I don’t remember them expressing an interest one way or another in what I was reading. I guess that’s a decision by default. They trusted me and my teachers. I think it eventually worked out fine for me.

       Other parents, however, are extremely interested in what their children are consuming. That can be a good thing, I think, if it allows for a variety of viewpoints and room to explore. By the way, Captain Underpants is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of my books were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

        Anyway, in a country in which clearly anyone can grow up to be president, I think it would be a good thing if he or she had actually read a book or two, including some that challenged his or her beliefs. But maybe that’s just the Orwell, Vonnegut and Salinger in me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.