Banned Books Week! Day 7 ~ A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

Today is the final day of Banned Books Week. This week, I’ve featured one banned book each day. Today’s book is The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger.

“Nothing endures. Not a tree. Not love. Not even death by violence.” 

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, was challenged due to sexual content. It is a coming of age story set in a boarding school during the second world war. The typical anxieties of adolescence are amplified by the looming specter of the war and the draft.

An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic.

A Separate Peace explores the fear, insecurities, and jealousy which so often tinge adolescence. What is your favorite coming of age novel and why? Discuss in the comments!

Thank you for joining me in my celebration of banned books this week!

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Banned Books Week! Day 6 ~ Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

It’s day six of Banned Books Week! This week, I’ll be featuring one banned book each day. Today’s book is Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” 

Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was challenged due to explicit language, alcohol use, smoking, and violence. Set in a world where all books have been outlawed, the irony of banning this particular novel was apparently lost on its detractors. Fahrenheit 451 is in part about valuing literature; books were able to become banned because society stopped valuing and demanding them.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television ‘family’. But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people did not live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.

Have you read Fahrenheit 451? Share your thoughts on it in the comments! What other novels have you read which involve the theme of censorship?

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Banned Books Week! Day 5 ~ Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling

Today is day five of Banned Books Week. This week, I’ll be featuring one banned book each day. Today’s post is dedicated to the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling.

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

Rowling’s Harry Potter books were famously banned (particularly in many Christian schools) for containing witchcraft. Harry Potter contains many important lessons about loyalty, bravery, and love. One of the main overarching messages of the series is decidedly anti-bigotry, as Harry finds himself in a society that often looks down on muggle-born witches and wizards, as well as various magical creatures such as house elves. Harry, as the hero of these series, routinely aligns himself with these underdogs, sending a clear message to the reader.

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.

Have you been reading any “banned books” this week? What lessons have you learned from books that have been considered controversial? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Banned Books Week! Day 4 ~ To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Today is day four of Banned Books Week, and today’s blog entry is dedicated to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged due to offensive language and racism. While there are arguably issues with Mockingbird (such as white savior themes and the lack of agency of black characters) it was a story about the injustices of racism and can provide a teaching moment and a starting point to talk about privilege.

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

The publication of Go Set a Watchman in 2015 sparked new controversy around To Kill a Mockingbird. Does Atticus Finch’s racism in Watchman impact your views on Mockingbird? Discuss in the comments.

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Banned Books Week! Day 3 ~ The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Today is day three of Banned Books Week, and I’m featuring a controversial book each day to celebrate. Today’s book is The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

“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.” 

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a feminist classic. It features a dystopian America with a bleak look at what could come of a fertility crisis and a male-dominated, hyper-conservative society. This novel is a particularly frightening dystopia due to its believability. The Handmaid’s Tale has been banned for its ostensibly anti-Christian themes.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

The Handmaid’s Tale features women in a variety of roles, while they are all under the thumb of Gilead in one way or another. Offred has relatively little privilege as a Handmaid. Comparatively, to what extent would you consider Wives or Aunts to be victims in Gilead? Discuss in the comments!

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Banned Books Week! Day 2 ~ The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

Today is day two of Banned Books Week. This week, I’ll be featuring one banned book each day. Today’s book is The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger.

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was challenged due to sexual content and explicit language; it was not viewed as suitable for the age group it was aimed at reaching.

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time‘s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.

Honestly, Holden Caulfield is an immensely unlikable narrator. Holden is a brooding, immature teenager, and this book is filled with teenage angst. The novel seems to be incredibly polarizing, with people either holding it up as one of the greatest American novels ever or wondering how on earth it ever became a classic. Either way, it’s certainly left its mark.

What are your thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye and on Holden Caulfield as a character? Discuss in the comments!

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Banned Books Week! Day 1 ~ 1984, by George Orwell

Today kicks off Banned Books Week, when we take time to raise awareness about the dangers of censorship. This week, I’ll be featuring one banned book each day.

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” 

George Orwell’s 1984 was challenged for violent content, sexual content, and views on communism. Today it is a staple of the dystopian genre.

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

What are your thoughts on Banned Books Week? Do you have a favorite “controversial” book? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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