Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Some of My Favorite Books are …Banned?

Banned Books Week 2013

It’s true: I read banned books.

And I’m proud of it.

I’m betting you do, too. Or maybe you read them as a kid.

Don’t think so? If you’ve ever picked up a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, then you, my friend, have read a banned book.

Same with In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. 

So many of the books that I remember checking out of my hometown library are among the most-challenged books of all time.

Pretty much any of the Judy Blume books, for instance. Take your pick. Blubber, Deenie, Tiger Eyes, DEFINITELY Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Forever

Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene.
Bridge to Terabithia, by Kathryn Paterson.
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

Several favorite books that started out as high school and college assignments have been challenged or outright banned.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This week is Banned Books Week and really, literature would be so empty without these (and so many, many other) books as part of our world, wouldn’t it?

Do you have a favorite banned book? Were you surprised to learn that a particular book was banned?

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Banned Books Week: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

This week is Banned Books Week, which also marks its 30th anniversary this year. Many book bloggers are using this week to feature special posts about censorship, to highlight authors whose works have been challenged, and to read books that have been banned.
I thought I would commemorate this week by providing a review or reflection each day of a book that is frequently banned or challenged. Yes, according to the list at the end of this post, I read banned books – and I’m betting you do the same. (Or, hopefully, will want to during this week.) Today I’m highlighting The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, with a review originally posted here on March 10, 2010.

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
2003

“A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.” (pg. 301)

No matter how much we try to ignore, bury, or forget our past, it is always with us – as well as the burden of guilt that often accompanies the actions we’d prefer to forget, until we can forgive ourselves. Such is the premise of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s powerful bestselling first novel.

The Kite Runner is a heartwrenching story about friendship and family, about loyalty and guilt. It is the story of two boys, Amir and Hassan, growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir is the son of a wealthy man and lives a comfortable life; Hassan and his father work as servants in Amir’s home. Amir’s mother died during childbirth; Hassan never knew his mother, as she left him and his father when he was very young.

All they have is each other, and what seems to be – until one fateful, life-changing day – an idyllic childhood, even in Afghanistan.

Initially, I wasn’t as captivated by The Kite Runner as I was with A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I also listened to via audio. Several times I found myself thinking, “this is what all the hype was about?” Make no mistake: Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented writer, and this is a powerful story – but unlike Suns, the first half of The Kite Runner didn’t have me in its grip from the get-go.

That changed in the latter portion of the book. There comes a point in the story (and those who have read it know when that is) when the action steps up pace considerably, and you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what happens. Hosseini gives his reader a believable story, and it is one that in lesser skilled hands could fall prone to the tendency to be tied up neatly and perfectly.

That’s not this story, and it is even more stronger for it. For if the ending was different would have been a disservice to the character of Amir and minimized his struggles.

It’s hard to say much more about The Kite Runner without giving any spoilers away. Despite my initial misgivings, in my opinion it has earned the many accolades it has garnered.

One amusing note: I listened to this on audio, but I also have a printed copy (yay, one book from Mt. TBR read!). In the back of my copy, there’s an ad announcing that Khaled Hosseini’s next book about Afghanistan “Driving in Titanic City,” will be published in summer 2006. I never knew that was the original title for A Thousand Splendid Suns (a much better choice, in my opinion).

    I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Banned Books Week: The Things They Carried, by Tim O’ Brien

This week is Banned Books Week, which also marks its 30th anniversary this year. Many book bloggers are using this week to feature special posts about censorship, to highlight authors whose works have been challenged, and to read books that have been banned.

I thought I would commemorate this week by providing a review or reflection each day of a book that is frequently banned or challenged. Yes, according to the list at the end of this post, I read banned books – and I’m betting you do the same. (Or, hopefully, will want to during this week.) Today I’m highlighting The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, with a review originally posted here on September 30, 2010.

The Things They Carried
by Tim O’Brien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
1990
233 pages

On the evening that President Obama announced the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and told us that it is time to turn the page, I found myself turning the pages of a book about another war.

The Things They Carried is about the Vietnam War and the book is considered an American classic. Now I see why. Now that I’ve turned the last page, I wholeheartedly agree with the book jacket that this is required reading for every American.

I should admit this: I didn’t want to read this book. I mean, if your literary diet is similar to mine, you’re not going to readily pick up a “war book.” But enough people have said how remarkable this is, so when Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness hosted a read-along, I decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did. Yes, it’s a tough subject matter, one that most of us would like to avoid. Yes, there are some tough, heartwrenching scenes and descriptions. But Tim O’Brien’s writing in this is absolutely breathtaking. He has the ability to put you right there in the middle of Vietnam with all the characters.

“To generalize about war is like generalizing about peace. Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true. At its core, perhaps, war is just another name for death, and yet any soldier will tell you, if he tells the truth, that proximity to death brings with it a corresponding proximity to life. After a firefight, there is always the immense pleasure of aliveness. The trees are alive. The grass, the soil – everything. All around you things are purely living, and you among them, and the aliveness makes you tremble. You feel an intense, out-of-the-skin awareness of your living self – your truest self, the human being you want to be and then become by the force of wanting it. In the midst of evil you want to be a good man. You want decency. You want justice and courtesy and human concord, things you never knew you wanted. There is a kind of largeness to it, a kind of godliness. Though it’s odd, you’re never more alive than when you’re almost dead.You recognize what’s valuable. Freshly, as if for the first time, you love what’s best in yourself and in the world, all that might be lost.” (pg. 77-78)

Is that not a spectacular piece of writing?

I want to elaborate for a minute on this: “Almost everything is true. Almost nothing is true. At its core, perhaps, war is just another name for death, and yet any soldier will tell you, if he tells the truth, that proximity to death brings with it a corresponding proximity to life.” To me, those three sentences are the very core of this book. The Things They Carried has an element of mystery about it, because while it is billed as “A Work of Fiction by Tim O’Brien,” it reads very much like a memoir due in large part to O’Brien including himself as a character in the book. That leads the reader, including myself, to wonder how much of the story is true and how much isn’t.

O’Brien uses this technique brilliantly and, I believe, on purpose. I didn’t experience the Vietnam War, but I do know that it was a very nebulous and confusing time. We weren’t quite sure why we were there or what to believe. By using this literary device of purposefully not telling his reader what is true and what is not, O’Brien is making a similar statement on the times of which he writes.

Likewise, the “proximity to death bring[ing] a corresponding proximity to life” is also an intriguing line because, yes, there is so much death in this book but there is also so much life. The soldiers of Alpha Company are very much alive, even in their deaths as their memory lives on. And, as the ending makes clear, so are those who were left behind at home and those gone before their time. Being exposed to death so young has the effect of making one appreciate one’s life and the lives of those we love.

This is an incredibly powerful book, one that should be (as I’ve said previously) required reading for every American. I may not have wanted to pick up The Things They Carried, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.

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Banned Books Week: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This week is Banned Books Week, which also marks its 30th anniversary this year. Many book bloggers are using this week to feature special posts about censorship, to highlight authors whose works have been challenged, and to read books that have been banned.

I thought I would commemorate this week by providing a review or reflection each day of a book that is frequently banned or challenged. Yes, according to the list at the end of this post, I read banned books – and I’m betting you do the same. (Or, hopefully, will want to during this week.)

For today’s review, I decided to highlight The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which is often challenged or banned from high school curriculums because of the various themes that Atwood writes about in the novel. Given the political discourse of late (especially with our presidential election here in the United States) and the social climate in which we live, I thought this was particularly timely.


The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books, a division of Random House
1986
311 pages

There is so much to tell you about The Handmaid’s Tale – so much that I don’t quite know where to begin.

I finished this more than two weeks ago, an eternity (in my book) between the time I complete a book and compose my thoughts about it. Normally, I write my reviews – or at least, my initial thoughts and impressions – immediately after closing the book. Sometimes sooner.

But this one is different, because it is almost impossible to process everything that is The Handmaid’s Tale, set in the not-too-far-off-in-the-foreseeable-future society that is the Republic of Gilead (formerly, the United States). Two weeks later, it is still haunting me.

Which is the whole intention in the first place.

If anything else, The Handmaid’s Tale is a thought-provoking book, about so many things: women’s rights, the influence of religion in society, relationships, politics, identity, betrayal, forgiveness, power and control. There are so many themes running through these pages. I know that’s been a criticism of this novel, that Atwood is trying too hard to have the book serve as commentary on too many issues. But that’s part of what makes a novel a classic, in my view, and I truly believe that The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely a classic.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I first read this in college, shortly after it was published and probably sometime around 1989. There was so much I’d forgotten in those decades since. I remembered Offred, that she had once been married and had a child. I remembered her relationship to and purpose for the Commander and that Offred wasn’t her name.

“My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter. I keep the knowledge of this name like something hidden, some treasure I’ll come back to dig up, one day. I think of this name as buried. This name has an aura around it, like an amulet, some charm that’s survived from an unimaginably distant past. I lie in my single bed at night, with my eyes closed, and the name floats there behind my eyes, not quite within reach, shining in the dark.” 

What I hadn’t remembered was the culture of life before the Republic of Gilead. (“We were a society dying of too much choice.”) as well as some of the specific events leading up to the formation of the Republic of Gilead. (“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”


Sound familiar? 
You can really see the possibility of this happening, can’t you? A mention of the president being assassinated was particularly chilling, given the political climate today, as well as the mention of a specific national tragedy (9/11?) that befell the country. The pollution of the rivers and dying off of the fish was poignant, too, given the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

Another thing that caught me off guard was how much Offred, before, was like so many women today. She was a wife and a mother. She worked full time. She went grocery shopping. She wore a bathing suit. And just like us, these everyday simple things that made up her life were taking place amidst a culture of sensationalism and a media realm that thrived on constant diet of the outlandish. 

“The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

Again … sound familiar yet? Probably, because most of us can relate. I’m guessing most of us aren’t living lives where our actions don’t normally make the news.

For all of the oppression and denial of freedoms that are contained within The Handmaid’s Tale, one of the primary messages is a hopeful one: even though there will always be people hell-bent on silencing another, there will always be ways to make yourself heard.

“Well. Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat’s ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they’d not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena’s, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.”

I rarely re-read books, but I am very glad that I re-read this one so that I would have the opportunity to remember why this is such an important book.

And when I think I am starting to forget, I’ll re-read it one more time.

    I am an Amazon.com affiliate. Making a purchase through any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo.

For more information on banned and challenged books, see these lists:


Banned and Challenged Classics
100 Most Frequently Challenged Books By Decade (1990-1999)
Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 2000-2009
Top 10 Challenged Books by Year 2001-2011

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
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