Recommended Reading: Banned Books Week

The week of September 21st through September 27th is Banned Books Week. Created in 1982 to celebrate books and reading and draw attention to the specter of banned and challenged books.

As one might imagine, Banned Books Week strikes a particular chord with us here at Talaria Press and, as such, we’ve asked our Founders and Associate Authors to share their thoughts on some of their favorite banned books.

If any of these strike your fancy and you wish to check out more, we’ll have links to all the books featured here at the end of the post!

Talaria Founder Garth Reasby’s Pick

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I think that banning books that challenge the mind and shed insight on moral and spiritual dilemmas does a disservice to our culture. It weakens us. Weakens the fabric of our intellectual wellspring. Books like To Kill a Mockingbird challenge our perception of racial equality and to ban it is to ban exposure to what the world was like, and in some cases is still like. As a person of color I know that prejudice and racial inequality is still a battle that needs to be fought. Being able to see the struggle in print allows children to get their minds working and gives them the opportunity to ask why early in their lives. By the time they’re an adult they may not care why, they may have never been challenged to ask. Hiding racism doesn’t drive it from existence, only understanding and exposure to people of different races can do that. Books are a necessary entry point into critical thought. Schools and parents should be mentoring their children, helping them learn to reason and ask why not hiding the truth of the past, present, or future from them.

Talaria Founder H.L. Reasby’s Picks

Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves is one of the books I loved fiercely as a child. I remember reading several copies of the book to literal tatters between the ages of about 8 and 13. Julie/Miyax’s struggle to figure out who she is and what her place in life resonated powerfully with me.

Julie’s story also presented to me an opportunity to view a wholly unfamiliar culture and environment (Alaskan tundra is worlds away from Arizona deserts). Through the author’s writing, I was able to put myself in the shoes of a fiercely strong and independent young woman who faced potentially lethal challenges, fighting for the right to make her own way in the world, on her own terms.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

In the world of S.E. Hinton’s Outsiders, I would have probably had little in common with the “Greasers” that most of the protagonists of this book belonged to; I came from a relatively intact family, I neither drank nor smoked, and I was a generally good kid who never seriously considered running away or getting into the sorts of trouble that followed the main characters.

What the Outsiders represented, however, was a window into a life experience I’d never had. Seeing the world through the eyes of Ponyboy, Johnny, and the others, I got a glimpse of life at a lower economic and social spectrum than I existed in at that time but presented me with a sort of ‘what if’ that allowed me to understand how fortunate I really was and how important compassion is when dealing with others.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I picked up Flowers for Algernon during an advanced English class which allowed us to choose whatever we wanted to read from a selection of novels within the classroom. I remember devouring the slender book in just two class periods and winding up almost in tears at the end.

Written in the form of progress reports written by the 32 year old Charlie, himself, they start out with him displaying poor grammar, spelling and limited vocabulary that would generally be associated with a young child. As the book progresses and Charlie’s intelligence improves, so too does his writing ability and his decline is similarly marked as well with a degradation of these skills once more. The graphic illustration of this rise and fall is brutal and heartbreaking.

Like The Outsiders, Flowers for Algernon teaches us compassion; not for those who have less money than us, but for those who are less able than us. In particular, witnessing “Charly’s” decline toward the end is heartrending. Flowers seeks to remind us that intelligence should not be our sole indicator of someone’s worth.

Talaria Founder Quiana Kirkland’s Picks

It’s hard to pick just one banned book that has been inspirational to me. It seems so often that any book that explores the challenges of adolescence, isolation, or loss are the first to be banned.

It is as though people think that if you don’t let your child read Bridge to Tarabithia or Tiger Eyes, your children will never experience loss. Or if you hide The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian nobody will ever have to know what it is like to question their place in the world or make difficult choices.

Some books are so obviously banned to protect us from the liberty of rebellious thought. Books like 1984, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird are banned because the author’s perspective might inspire resistance to the status quo. The trouble with the status quo, is that the current state of affairs is so fluid and constantly changing, that even as you grab to hold it, it’s already slipping through your fingers. Banning a book is like trying to put water back in the faucet.

But I believe we need our books where parents die, where children make adult decisions, and where people challenge authority. It proves that we’re not alone when we need to do those difficult things in our own lives.

Associated Author Martin Schiller’s Picks

I have two: Fahrenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles. These are two my favorite books by one of my favorite authors and both have been banned. I love them for their stark simplicity, the emphasis on story over science and the fact that neither of them pulled any punches. They are honest, human, and therefore, will endure and outlive any temporary paralysis of our desire for honesty and the freedom of expression.

Associated Author Ren Cummins’ Picks

**Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Ren is hard at work on short stories for our upcoming anthology and was unable to provide us with picks. However, as a parent and an author, you can be sure that the idea of Banned Books Week is near and dear to his heart as well.

If you’d like to learn more about Banned Books Week, and which of your favorite books might have been challenged, please visit the website for the American Library Association or the official Banned Books Week website. There, you’ll find educational materials about these challenges, as well as listings of events around Banned Books Week which will allow you to join with others to celebrate our shared love of these books and their authors.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reason for challenges: racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape.

 

 

 

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Reason for Challenge: portrayal of gang violence, underage smoking and drinking, as well as strong language/slang and family dysfunction.

 

 

 

 

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Reason for Challenges: language and sexually explicit passages

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge to Tarabithia by Katherine Paterson 

Reason for Challenges: occult/Satanism, offensive language

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Reason for Challenges: sexual situations, underage drinking, and profanities.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Reason for Challenge: depictions of domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder.

 

 

 

 

 

1984 by George Orwell

Reason for Challenge: bleak warning of totalitarian government and censorship.

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Reason for Challenge: Perceived as pro-communist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Reason for Challenge: discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, ‘dirty talk,’ references to the Bible, and using God’s name in vain.

 

 

 

 

 

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Reason for Challenge: Sexism and racism.

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