Welcome. You’re just in time to help me choose what I should read next.
I recently glanced at the American Library Association list of banned and challenged classics and was rather surprised to see that six of the top ten on the list were required reading in my High School English classes. Those Hemet High teachers taught us to go against the grain from an early age. Mr. Miller, I guess you always were a rebel; sitting in your rocking chair in front of the class fake-smoking your dry erase marker like a cigar. I always loved my English classes. As a book worm from a young age, I didn’t mind those summer A.P. English reading lists at all. (“Wait, you mean I HAVE to read over the summer?! Um, ok.”)
Scrolling down the list even further I found many more books I read in high school, some required and some a result of my frequent visits to the public library. Many of these books have remained my favorite books of all time. The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath (which I am still convinced is loosely based on my family, but that’s another story), Brave New World, 1984… all still dearly loved.
I don’t know if I’ve re-read any book more often than 1984. The last time I read it was two or so years ago. I thought I’d give it another read in preparation for seeing a stage production at Poway Center for the Performing Arts. As great as that production was, there is just no way to top the production that I see in my mind when I read that book, or the book that is its perfect companion, Brave New World. Reading those two books back to back is the perfect double feature for me. Thank you God, for blessing me with an imagination that allows me to create fantastic mental imagery while I read. I guess that’s probably why when on those rare occasions that I have to choose between going out to see a movie or snuggling up on the couch with a book, the book wins every time.
But perhaps the banned book that is most near and dear to my heart is Slaughterhouse-Five. After reading Slaughterhouse-Five for my English class I proceeded to go down to the library and systematically work my way through the Kurt Vonnegut holdings, loving each of his crazy novels and short stories more than the last. But Slaughterhouse-Five will always be my favorite Vonnegut book, because it was the gateway drug. I remember when Kurt Vonnegut died several years back I got sad. Real sad. In the spectrum of famous person deaths, I was way sadder than when Kurt Cobain shot himself, or when Jerry Garcia died. But only a little bit sadder than when Freddie Mercury died. I guess just liked knowing that a mind like his was still here on earth. Now I guess I take comfort thinking that he might still be around, traveling at random to various points in his life like Billy Wilder, occasionally stopping to rest in the violet hum.
Anyway, whoa, I really digressed there. Back to Banned Books Week. This week I’m going to read a book that I’ve never read before, and that I was really surprised to find on the list of banned and challenged classics, Gone With The Wind. To be fair, I was inspired to read Gone With the Wind after reading a blog by another grown woman who has never read it, and it’s just a happy coincidence (for me, not Margaret Mitchell) that it was banned from Anaheim Union High School District English classrooms in 1978, the year of my birth. The book was also challenged in Waukegan School District in 1984 because the novel uses the word “nigger.” A wholly unpleasant word to be sure, but then our history is full of unpleasant things that we can’t just ban ourselves out of.
Check out the lists of banned and challenged books at the American Library Association website, let me know which ones you’ve read, and if you have any favorites. And while you’re there, pick one that you haven’t read yet and indulge in a little book rebellion with me.