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Posts Tagged ‘banned books’

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I want to say goodbye to Banned Books Week with the most recent list of books that are challenged in schools and communities. Here are the top ten of 2011. I’ve read many and think they are pretty good books. A few are for younger kids, so not ones we’d collect for high school libraries. However, the age-appropriate books are in the library for you to check out.

I found one surprise on the list. Although To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged consistently since its publication in 1960, it’s not always in the top ten. So, Frosh, enjoy reading one of the most banned or challenged books ever with your English teacher!

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa

    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler

    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones

    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar

    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

    Reasons: offensive language; racism

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Adult Books for Teens: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Wall-sized televisions that simulate interaction and communication with the person existing within the confines of the ‘living’ room don’t seem much like science fiction anymore, but when Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the late 1940s, he anticipated much that has since come to pass. And although the technology—ear buds with wireless communication capabilities, robotic creatures with homing devices—make this fascinating science fiction, the reason this novel has remained popular and very much worth reading is that it both warns of then contemporary threats to liberty and anticipates a future when communication is just a constant stream of shallow information, without any real meaning. The onslaught makes it impossible to think deeply.

The novel is titled after the temperature at which pages of a book will burn. In interviews, Bradbury says that he asked around about what that temperature was and got an answer from the LA Fire Department, and hoped that it was right.

Montag is a fireman, but in Bradbury’s vision of the future, firemen don’t put out fires; they create them. In fact, it is against the law to read books, and so anyone caught having books in the home has his or her house burnt down by the fire department and is then carted off to prison.

As the novel opens, Montag meets a teenage girl, his neighbor, who enjoys life, asks many questions, is intuitive about him and reads. She fascinates him. Montag is also fascinated by the fact that some people will risk their homes in order to read. When he goes to start a fire at a home of a woman who refuses to leave, who decides that she will die in the fire with her books, Montag can’t put it out of his mind. He does what must tempt any fireman—he steals a book. And then his life really explodes. Because in reading, he finds a connection to others, to their thoughts and hopes. Books are living documents of human struggle.

I realized recently that it was already time for celebrating ‘banned books,’ and that I had been too busy to do much about it. So, I thought it would be fun to have another look at Fahrenheit 451. I think the novel is paced differently than some novels written today. There is a lot of action and a lot of danger; but the climax comes earlier and the resolution is a bit longer. I found this interesting—that the resolution was given so much weight, that it really did matter as much as the action.

And yes, Fahrenheit 451 is a living document of human struggle, a book that has stood the test of time and will engage the reader with its poetic language and its fast action. The more sinister elements of the totalitarian society are still, unfortunately, fresh warnings.

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Tough Topics: Teen Sexuality: Forever by Judy Blume 

One in an occasional series on books with teen topics that are tough to address.

Katherine’s grandmother sees that she is getting serious with her boyfriend Michael and so gives her some information on adolescents and sex. One article asks the teen to consider four questions:

  • Is sexual intercourse necessary for the relationship?
  • What should you expect from sexual intercourse?
  • If you should need help, where will you seek it?
  • Have you thought about how this relationship will end?

I like this list that Blume posed all the way back in the 1970s. This book has remained popular and in print all these years—newer editions begin with a note from Blume about how in the age of AIDS, sexually active people must do more than worry about birth control. She includes a helpline and a website for more information.

While it wouldn’t be fair to call Forever an instruction manual (as some critics have suggested—they think that Blume’s purpose is to lure teens into having sexual relationships), it is very honest and pretty graphic.

Kathryn and Michael meet at a party and realize that they are attracted to one another. The first three-fourths of the book are their thoughts and conversations on sex, on their sexual relationship. Are they going to do it? When? Where? How? What goes right and what goes wrong as they explore intimacy? What embarrassing details do they have to deal with? They are so much in love that their relationship is the all in all of their lives. As they are seniors in high school, Kath is ready to select a college where she can continue to be near Michael. Michael gives her a necklace with the word “forever” engraved on it. Nothing can stand in the way of their love.

That is until Kath’s parents think she is becoming far too serious. For me, as someone much older, someone who knows that just falling for someone doesn’t mean forever, this last quarter of the book is actually a lot more interesting than the question of what sexual thing the couple will explore next. And it’s the question Kath believed she’d never have to think about: Have you thought about how this relationship will end? When Kath is upset with her mom because she won’t see Michael for weeks, she accuses her:

 “’I thought you’d be on my side.”

“’I am,’ she told me.”

Because Kath’s parents have been through all of this, too, they just want to see what will happen when Kath has some breathing room. They are on her side, but that’s very hard for her to see in the moment.

While the novel is quite realistic in terms of how teens explore a sexual relationship, and where the author is very careful to add the didactic elements about the necessity of birth control, the very hip attitude of the parents and even the grandparents made life just a bit too easy for the lovers. I don’t see most grandparents giving girls instruction on birth control.

Yet, this novel is as edgy and appealing to teens as it was forty years ago. But don’t just read it and take away how the couple becomes sexually intimate. Take away the important question “Have you thought about how this relationship will end?” And if you’re not ready to believe in that end to the relationship, you aren’t ready to start it either. Other relationships, other futures await.

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