The Collegian Staff discuss some of their favorite books that have survived through censorship campaigns.
Zach: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “Ulysses” as a favorite banned book of mine. Banned or burned in much of the English-speaking world, the book follows two protagonists to recount a single day in Dublin on June 16, 1904, a day significant to the author James Joyce. The ban of the book in the U.S. made it to court, and Judge John M. Woolsey delivered a famous 1933 opinion lifting bans on the 1922 novel, the decision being a good read on its own. Arguably the best book of the 20th century, if not ever, “Ulysses” is one that I cannot recommend strongly enough. If nothing else, everyone should read it before deciding whether it should suffer a ban.
Caspian: Tulsa native, S.E. Hinton has recently had her novel “The Outsiders” added to the PEN American’s Index of School Book Bans, which has led it to be banned or proposed to be banned at various Oklahoma public schools. Hinton herself had started writing it at the age of 15 and later published it at 18 in 1967. The novel is a coming-of-age story, including the protagonist Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old greaser living in a world with the odds against him. While he’s trying to stay afloat various opticals such as gang violence, teen smoking and drinking surround him. This is most likely the reason for it being placed on the banned list. Hinton was bringing awareness to these issues and showing how a child can get through it. I am personally disappointed to see it be banned.
Celeste: Believe it or not, “The Outsiders” by Tulsa Native S.E. Hinton was banned in a Wisconsin school district in 1986. The school board that banned it argued that the young adult novel used too much vulgar language and portrayed characters from broken homes.
I remember the first time I read “The Outsiders” – or I should say, had it read to me – when I was in eighth grade. Our writing teacher committed a week of class to read us this famous novel aloud. I can’t think of a better age to encounter this story than middle school, when Hinton’s words about the struggles of identity, family, friendships and social status hit straight home. You’ve likely never been a teenager in the 60s, probably weren’t a greaser and hopefully never had to flee from authorities for self-defense manslaughter–but Ponyboy’s story is your story. You understand him, and he understands you. What continues to make this book so attractive half a century after it was originally published is how incredibly real it is to a young adult audience: vulgar language, broken homes and all.
Erika: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood has been a book long challenged as well as banned in states all over the country. This dystopian novel is set in a world with dangerously low reproduction rates, and in order to solve infertility issues, especially in high ranking officials, they are assigned a “handmaid,” who’s job is to bear children for the couple. Due to the relatively graphic nature of the novel, it has long suffered scrutiny in the classroom due to “vulgarity and sexual overtones.” This book is a critique of the treatment of women in the past and present, and Atwood stated that the actions of the people in the book were the actions of people at some point in history, somewhere in the world. This is a very thought provoking book that tackles very heavy themes, and should not be banned because of that.
Isabella: Laurie Halse Anderson’s young adult novel “Speak” has been among the top-ranking banned and challenged books for years. This book follows the aftermath of sexual assault from the perspective of a young girl named Melinda who was raped at a party over the summer. Multiple times, this book has been challenged in the US since 2000. Individuals have stated the book shouldn’t be allowed as it contains sexual scenes/topics involving minors. Others have commented that such sensitive topics shouldn’t be introduced at such a young age in a classroom setting. Personally, I read this book in my freshman year of high school and it very quickly became one of my favorite books I had ever read. I was introduced to the novel in my English class as a required text. Yes, the book involves sensitive topics (almost every book does), but it allows students to become educated on these topics from the perspective of a character around the same age. Topics such as sexual assault are not topics that should be hidden from students: it’s better to be aware and educated, than blind and clueless.
Maddie: Salmon Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses,” recently had an attack made on his life as he was giving a public speech in Chautauqua, New York, and this is the latest of a long list of attempts. Published in 1988, 13 different countries banned “The Satanic Verses” for blasphemy. One year later, the (then) Supreme Leader of Iran issued an execution proclamation and bounty for the death of Rushdie. In fact, he’s not the only one to suffer for the plight of this novel; the Italian and Japanese translators were stabbed back when the novel was originally published. Rushdie survived the attempt made on his life, but will be on a long road to recovery.