Posts Tagged ‘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.

As Promised: The Books You Picked

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Recent reading ...

Recent reading … Mine, not yours.

You meet the nicest people when you write about books.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of all the political angsts and anger on Facebook and wrote a column about books and synchronicity and what I was reading and asked folks what they were reading. To change the subject, you know?

The mind needs a break from corruption, greed, arrogance, duplicity, complicity, bigotry, cowardice and just plain stupidity, even, or especially,  when those are the dominant traits of the elected officials filling the seats of power in Washington.

Books can take us elsewhere. Anywhere, really. They can remind us what it is to think, not merely react. To set aside our current grievances. To relax, imagine and discover … mostly ourselves.

So I asked people what they were reading and said I would share it with others. When I write about other topics, such as politics, the feedback I get tends to be from self-satisfied pundits who want to 1) tell me I’m an idiot and 2) demonstrate how much smarter they are by making some snarky remark about my opinion. They usually don’t spend time writing anything of any length themselves. It’s hit-and-run commentary. Insult and belittle. But it’s the age in which we live and I know that going in.

Still, a guy needs a break occasionally. Wouldn’t you know, when I asked people about books they were reading or would recommend or, a la “Fahrenheit 453,” a book they would be if they could be one, people gave thoughtful, respectful responses. Imagine that.

So here, as promised, are some of the replies I got from posting my column on several sites as well as zestoforange:

  • Jo Cicale, with her new Kindle: What am I reading or what have I read? “All the Light We Cannot See” was among the best of the best. Just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” and that is a wow! Geez, wish I could remember the name of the book about Alfred the alligator. It was such a fun read. Need laughs and fun, don’t we?
  • Patricia Campbell: I am reading the two latest James Pattersons – “I, Alex Cross” and “Kill Alex Cross.” If I could be a book it would have to be “Bastard Out of Carolina.” This is a gritty look at child abuse and neglect, I could not put it down and so I didn’t.
  • Toni Macaroni: Just finished “God Help the Child,” by Toni Morrison. I found it quite amazing. Quick read.
  • Linda D’Amato Hayes: Currently reading “Alvin York, A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,” by Douglas V. Mastriano, and “Angels of the Underground, the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII,” by Theresa Kaminski.
  • Jason Harris: I’m currently reading two books. One I read to keep my mind occupied and is the height of Space Opera from the Black Press called “Mechanicum” and is part of a series called “The Horus Heresy.” The second I read in an attempt to better my soul and that’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  • Idrea Ramaci: “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle. Already have it almost memorized, as I’ve read it so many times.
  • Anita Page: “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer. This book about the role the Koch brothers play in American politics is alarming, but worth reading. “Selected Stories,” by William Trevor — 48 stories by one of the best short story writers of our time. The collected works of Mo Willems (to be read aloud to grandkids). He’s terrific and very funny, which is helpful these days.
  • Jim Bridges: The last book I read was Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness.”  What book would I like to be – gosh, I immediately thought of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels, perhaps “The Brothers Karamazov.” Not sure why, but ever since high school I have liked his writing.
  • Ernie Miller: Here are some books. Margaret Atwood: “Oryx & Crake .” William Forstchen: “One Second After,” “One Year After,” and “The Final Day” (connections to Newt Gingrich & The Prepper Network ). Kim Stanley Robinson: “The Mars Trilogy,” “The Years of Rice & Salt* and “New York 2140.” * Big on Synchronicity!
  • Mikhail Horowitz: I am currently reading Shelby Foote’s 14-volume history of the Civil War. Mostly because a) he’s a wonderful storyteller; b) the parallels between the 1860s and the 1960s (my student activist days) are so uncanny; and c) during the recent presidential campaign it became obvious that half this country is still fighting the Civil War. Also, I thought I already WAS a book, but if I had to pick another book — actually, two books — to be, they would be a first edition copy of the “2050 Baseball Encyclopedia,” and a translation of “Finnegan’s Wake” into Mandarin.
  • Christine Marsh-Rijssenbeek: “Half a Life,” by V.S. Naipaul. His writing is sublime. And if I were a book: “The Kon Tiki Expedition,” by Thor Heyerdahl because I feel as if I’m always floating in the middle of an ocean.
  • Mary Makofske: Am reading “535 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” by Charles Lewis (and this BEFORE the ascension of Trump). Also some older novels, “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn and “Ecotopia,” by Ernest Callenbach (surprising how relevant they still are. Ecotopia is composed of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which seceded). “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. “The Harvest Gypsies,” nonfiction by John Steinbeck (led to “The Grapes of Wrath”). “Methland,” by Nick Reding, was an eye-opener. “How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan,: didn’t contain much new for me, but was a timely reminder. Wow, I’ve been reading a lot. Thanks for asking, Bob. I always like to see what others have discovered.
  • John Escher: Nice. I was going to recommend that you stop reading books and see a movie, “FAHRENHEIT 453,” but see you already did. Personally speaking, I prefer early to late Wolfe. “Hernia hernia hernia hernia hernia.” And prefer partial to full knee replacements since I play tennis when I’m not reading books.
  • Wise woman (obviously a nom de plume): Well you did ask. So here’s what I’m recommending according to the info you provided. Since you didn’t list a woman author, I suggest “Woman As Healer,” by Jeanne Achterberg. Then Deepak Chopra, “Perfect Health.” To round out some history you might not be familiar with, “Remembering Hypatia,” by Brian Trent. I met Brian years ago when he was a very young man and his book had just been published. I was highly impressed by his quiet intelligence and determination to tell a story that definitely needs to be told. These, if you should care to read them, will keep you busy for a while. Because of a protracted illness, I have been confined to my Kindle which has been a blessing since books are too heavy to read in bed. I wish you good health and success in sharing your experiences.

See what I mean? Nice people. Thank you. And if you want to keep commenting and suggesting, that’s fine with me. It adds to my reading list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com