Banned in U.S. books make for good reading

Wednesday October 3, 2012

This is the American Library Associ ation’s 30th national Banned Books Week, and readers of all ages should check out what books the self-ap pointment arbiters of American morality have decided this past year and over the decades are not fit to be read. Books end up on banned lists for a variety of reasons but they often have one key thing in common -- they are well worth reading.

The Milne Public Library in Williams town is performing a service through Saturday by displaying books that have been banned this year in communities across the United States (Jenn Smith, Eagle, October 2). There are familiar stand bys like Harper Lee’s 1960 novel "To Kill A Mockingbird," which has long made some people uncomfortable with its portrayal of American racism and ignorance. It is a must-read, and the 1962 film of the same name starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, a courageous attorney in the Depression-era South, is a must-see classic. Aldous Huxley’s 1932 masterpiece "Brave New World" has been banned off and on for being anti-religious and anti-family, among other complaints, but it is a cautionary tale about the perils of conformity and group-think that resonates today.

As Milne Library Director Pat McLeod observed, literature for young readers is disproportionately banned by those who think they know what is best for the children of others. Comically, J.K. Rowling’s hugely popular coming-of-age "Harry Potter" books have been banned in some communities because they supposedly encourage the practice of witchcraft.

On this year’s list, for another example, is Suzanne Collins’ "The Hunger Games" trilogy, and while the teen romance may be the hook to draw young readers in, the value lies in the withering portrayal of a totalitarian government that brutally suppresses dissent, distorts the truth with political slogans, and pacifies the masses through a complicit media that turns savagery into entertainment. The first book from 2008, which is futuristic but contemporary in its themes, is in the tradition of "Brave New World" and George Orwell’s "1984," and like "To Kill A Mockingbird" it generated a fine film this year to be followed by two sequels.

"The Hunger Games" belongs on a must-read list not a banned list. In fact, however, they amount to the same list.


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