Banned Books Week: So much for my entire high school reading list

It amazes me that almost every book I was required to read in high school has been challenged or banned at one point or another. I admit that I was bored to tears and could never finish “The Catcher in the Rye” (I did manage an A on the exam though — thank you Mr. Cliff!). The next few books I’m going to write about, however, I did read from cover to cover . . . more than once!

1984 by George Orwell
Funny enough, even though I received an A for “The Catcher in the Rye,” I only got a B on the exam for “1984” – which is totally wacky because I read it twice during summer reading. (I had to make up for not reading “The Catcher in the Rye”, ya know!). It’s not like I could go up to my teacher and explain the ludicrousness (I really think that word should be ludicrousity – it sounds better) of how she graded my essay exams!

Anyway, “1984”, as most of you probably know is about a future society (it was written in 1948 after all) where freedom has been obliterated. Big Brother watches everything and there are thought police to . . . well . . . police your thoughts. The news is rewritten to fit the current agenda. Not only have books been taken away, but the words themselves. Newspeak is designed to limit vocabulary, and in turn, limit thought.

“1984” is also one of the most challenged books in the US. Ironically, it has been challenged for being pro-communist. I think this falls into the category of “I didn’t even read the book” . . . or, if it was read, “it was just completely over my head”. In a 1949 review of the book, it was called “a veiled attack against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet ruler’s infamous ‘midnight purges’,” according to an article from TIME.

The book has also been challenged for sexual content and profanity. This is on high school reading lists people . . . and if you think they haven’t heard, seen or done worse, you are sadly disillusioned. Unless, of course, you have isolated your children from the world, in which case, they wouldn’t be in public school anyway.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
So, if you know me, you know I’m huge Vonnegut fan. While I have not read a great number of his books, I do quote him frequently and have massive respect for him as a writer and a person. I still think twice about using semicolons thanks to Vonnegut 😉

I can’t remember if I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” in high school or college, but I do remember that I could not put it down. I relived Billy Pilgrim’s experiences with him. I had never been (and still am not) a fan of war related literature, but “Slaughterhouse-Five” enraptured me. For those who don’t know, the book’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim is an American soldier. He is based on a real soldier who was held prisoner during World War II. Billy becomes “unstuck” in time, jumping from place to place and time to time.

The book does contain quite a bit of profanity and sexual content and there are remarks about religion. It is not a book for everyone. Reviews range from “Brilliant!” to “I don’t understand why everyone loves this book!” But here’s the thing . . . each of those reviewing the book had the choice to read it.

“Slaughterhouse Five” is not a book that was just challenged in my parent’s generation. Just last week, a school in Missouri agreed to reverse the ban on “Slaughterhouse-Five” . . . well, kinda. It must be placed in a restricted section and parents have to check the book out for their kids.

Seriously?

High school students need their parents to check out books for them? You know, because it’s not like we have enough problems already trying to get kids to enjoy reading, now we have to force them to bring mommy or daddy along to the library.

The banning from Republic came after a professor from the University of Missouri spoke out against “Slaughterhouse-Five” (among other novels). According to him, those books “create false conceptions of American history and government or teach principles contrary to biblical morality and truth.”

Ok, so I could easily jump on the whole “freedom of religion” bit. But you know that drill.

As for the language and the sexual content . . . see my arguments about “1984” above.

Read an excerpt from “Slaughterhouse-five” here.

———–

I totally (I’ve been using that word a lot lately . . . not quite sure why) intended to include “A Clockwork Orange” in tonight’s list, but it’s already after 11pm and I’m tired and quite frankly, a bit too lazy at the moment. So I’m copping out and leaving you with this in case you want to read more about it. If I get a chance, I might revisit this book later in the week!

***For those who follow my weekly check-ins . . . I am skipping this week. It’s been a rough week. Again. The Prozac has officially worn off and I’m trying to figure a few things out. Tomorrow is a fresh start and I will be back in full force next week :-)***

P.S. I apologize for any incoherencies (and made up words) in this post. I’ve been working on it for 3 hours because I’m freaking exhausted, so I didn’t even read through it once. I’ll read it over tomorrow . . . at which point, I’m sure I will find several things to fix.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bryan on September 27, 2011 at 12:13 am

    a bit of trivia on Slaughterhouse Five: it was the first book printed to contain ‘motherfucker’. can’t remember where i heard it but given the time period, it sounds about right.

    Reply

  2. For some reason, I thought I had read “1984” but now I am thinking I didn’t cause I don’t remember it…guess I need to read it or reread…

    Reply

  3. I have never read 1984! I so need to fix that! Slaughterhouse Five is really good! I need to read more Vonnegut! I can understand not wanting to let a very yound kid read it, but by 16 or so should be okay. I don’t have kids so I’m basing this on my own childhood and I probably wouldn’t have really been able to understand or process this book before then. 🙂 Honestly, I had never read Slaughterhouse FIve until a few years ago when a friend was like – You’ve never read this! You have to read it! Lol And he was right because I really liked it.

    Reply

    • Yes, yes you must read 1984!!!

      I agree with age for Slaughterhouse-Five. I *think* I actually read it in college, but around 10th or 11th grade, I think would have been appropriate for me (so 16 – 17). I know Slaughterhouse-Five has been required reading for some classes, but it wasn’t for any of mine. I am fairly certain that those who were required to read it were juniors or seniors, and at that point, I definitely don’t believe it is inappropriate.

      If you haven’t read it already, I highly suggest Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut . . . definitely my favorite of his!

      Reply

  4. It’s funny how you never finished “Catcher in the Rye” because I’m re-reading it right now. It just shows how tastes vary for each person. I have the others on my to-read list. Thanks for the information. Here’s a post about different book ‘tastes’. You should get some rest. 🙂

    http://passion2read.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/book-smorgasbord/

    Reply

    • Haha . . . I was up until 3:30 a.m. cleaning . . . one of my periodic moments of mania 😛

      I LOVE how everyone’s tastes are different. If everyone liked the all of the same things, we’d have very little need for many writers!

      Definitely going to check out your Book Smorgasbord post 🙂

      Reply

  5. […] 1984 and Slaughterhouse-Five […]

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