Living up to my nom de plume, Mr. Off Topic, I couldn’t help but notice that some books are now banned in many US schools, so I ventured forth to discover which books were so vile as to deserve this treatment. The results of my quest are mind-boggling, yet sadly true to the so-called values of the society in which we live today.
The removal of books from Tennessee schools is due to a belief that they would make students feel uncomfortable…
Reading the above quote makes my skin creep and it, therefore, follows that the authorities in Tennessee, or any other book-banning state, would rather its students read books that don’t challenge them or ask difficult questions. Besides, the very word uncomfortable can be defined in so many different ways, depending on the nefarious purpose and context. I’m currently on my fourth or maybe fifth reading of George Orwell’s 1984 and not only does his work make me feel uncomfortable, as it should, but it also prompts existential questions and profound thoughts, in the same way as a drop of oil helps a creaky old machine. This is precisely the effect that books should have on us, not least the hungry minds of young students, so I was astounded to discover that the following books have been banned from some schools in the US at one time or another:
- Maus – unnecessary use of profanity, its depiction of violence and suicide. (Depicts the Holocaust experienced by the author’s parents)
- V For Vendetta – an anarchist’s handbook, apparently
- To Kill A Mockingbird – due to content of rape and racism in 1936 America. Take note of the publication date
- The Handmaid’s Tale – sexually explicit and offensive to Christians
Other books have been banned or challenged in different educational regions of the US, such as The Lord Of the Rings for apparently promoting Satanism, The Catcher In The Rye for too much swearing and 1984 for promoting communism (that one made me laugh out loud!). It therefore comes as no surprise that Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 were both banned in the former Soviet Union and China, which should boggle the minds of all of us to discover that the former USSR, China and the USA are mentioned together in the same sentence as nations notorious for banning books.
I was very fortunate to have been taught English by teachers who were both challenging and provocative when it came to the written word. I even remember the headmaster at one school setting Animal Farm as a reading project for our class to study (I was eleven years old) and he actually read passages to us — all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others is a phrase that has stayed with me ever since. How can such a phrase NOT be provocative or any other iteration of similar meaning, particularly to a young mind? It’s supposed to be.
But banning books or any other form of media is a self-defeating exercise that in the end serves absolutely no useful purpose, especially in this day and age, when so many other avenues are available to acquire such banishments, such as eBooks.
When Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in the UK in 1928 it became a criminal offence to publish the book, a fact that today would seem outlandish. However, following a trial by jury 30 years later which found in favour of Penguin Books, the book went on to sell over 200,000 copies in just one day. And by the way, if you think Fifty Shades Of Grey is racy, it reads like The Muppets Go To Tinseltown in comparison with DH Lawrence’s seminal work. And let’s not forget the BBC’s 1984 banning of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s debut single, Relax which was described by some as obscene, but then went on to sell millions, finding its way to the top of the pop charts.
Other books that have either been banned or challenged by US educational establishments include:
- Of Mice And Men – disliked by the KKK
- The Great Gatsby – due to its language and sexual references
- The Grapes Of Wrath and East Of Eden – due to their sexual content and use of ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ as profanities
- The Catcher In The Rye – for containing sarcasm and mocking women and old people
- Ender’s Game– for being sci-fi pornography
- Fun Home – contains lesbianism and closet homosexuality
- Brave New World – sexual themes
- Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn – racism and use of words no longer acceptable today
I’ve read many of the books mentioned here and I’m sure as hell going to make sure I read the others, simply to discover what all the fuss is about.
But once again I digress and have to point out here that DCT is NOT a political soapbox of any kind, yet one cannot escape the fact that many of these banishments have a political/religious edge to them, not to mention a wokeness that defies belief. In the mixed-up maelstrom of cancel culture, wokeness and the emergence of snowflakes, it comes as no surprise that books that challenge established orders or have the brazen cheek to dissect and discuss important issues of the day such as racism, LGBTQ issues, or any other subject under the sun, from whichever angle, will be challenged because they deviate from a particular agenda. A rigid agenda set by those who will tolerate no other kind of agenda except their own sinisterism. This brings me conveniently back to Orwell’s 1984, so I’ll grab my coat and leave you all with some acidic yet thought-provoking phrases from that masterful book.
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”