Scranton Page Turner: Banned Books

Read everything and graduate from Library

Some of you may recognize my name because I write a blog called Wisdom and Life that I cross post here at Patch.

I work at the Scranton Library in Madison, Connecticut and that affords me the good fortune of being exposed to a plethora of books.

Our director, Beth Crowley recently approached me about writing a reader’s advisory blog.  Seeing as I read voraciously and read from, EVERY genre,  I wholeheartedly agreed. Because Banned Book Week is occurring, both Beth Crowley and I decided to write on that topic for my first entry.  I don’t want to become wordy here so I’ve selected three books to discuss:

A Wrinkle in Time
The Bridge to Terebithia
Of Mice and Men

1.  A Wrinkle in Time
The school system of Anniston, Alabama, challenged it in 1990 because someone objected to the book’s citing the name of Jesus together with the names of other artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders who defended Earth against evil.
Religious groups have challenged the book because its female characters- Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which- use magical powers to take Meg and her brother, Charles, on a space trip through the fifth dimension. Objecting parents and pastors claimed that the characters are really witches practicing black magic under the guise of “New Age” religion, based on Hindu and Buddhist cultures. They claim that children are being indoctrinated with Eastern religions and mystical practices by the references and imagery of crystal balls, psychic healing, astral travel, and telepathy.
Citizens for Excellence in Education in Waterloo, Iowa, accused L’Engle of promoting occult practices, employing Satanic suggestions, sadism, and “implying that Christ was not divine” by comparing him to the world’s other great leaders of peace.
Banned Books World

My thoughts:
All the world’s religions believe in and worship the SAME God.  What does it matter what religion we practice as long as we all worshiping a Divine Loving God?  Many of these pastors and parents, while they object to “New Age” Religion also have challenges with Christianity.  As I’ve always reminded people at my personal blog:
Wisdom and Life
, Christianity as it was practiced during the time of Christ was about inclusion, NOT exclusion.  How many of these parents and pastors can say they include EVERYONE in their houses of worship?  What’s that Biblical passage:
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?  I believe if we lived focused more on this theme and less on exclusion, more on Christ’s vision and less on today’s Church we would all be in a healthier place spiritually.  We have to stop excluding, not just people, but ideas and books as well.  

2.  Bridge to Terabithia
As for why the book has been banned in the past, Paterson explained, "Initially, it was challenged because it deals with a boy who lives in rural Virginia, and he uses the word 'Lord' a lot, and it's not in prayer. Then there are more complicated reasons. The children build an imaginary kingdom, and there was the feeling that I was promoting the religion of secular humanism, and then New Age religion." Paterson thinks the latter complaints are ironic since her parents were Christian missionaries, and she is married to a Presbyterian minister.
According to the Hartford Courant, Flanagan's and Eigner's petition urges the school board to "… eliminate the study of materials containing information about witchcraft, magic, evil spells, or related material, now and forever…. We believe this material is satanic, a danger to our children, is being studied excessively and has no place in our schools."

Here’s another example of religious zealots becoming overly concerned with the written word.  According to the Hartford Courant, Flanagan's and Eigner's petition urges the school board to "… eliminate the study of materials containing information about witchcraft, magic, evil spells, or related material, now and forever…. We believe this material is satanic, a danger to our children.

My Thoughts:
On whose recommendation is this book or ANY book that matter deemed inappropriate?  Don’t these people who ban or want to ban books realize that simply by calling attention the book, it creates more interest in reading the books?

If you look back at the history of witchcraft, there is very little evidence that those called witches ever were.  I also find it interesting that was primarily women who were called out.  Why do you suppose that was?  

Today’s witches are more earth centric, practicing healing magic and nothing like the witches that were persecuted in the past.  And what do we persecute anyway?  We persecute that which we do not understand, much like science was condemned in the age of Galileo and Newton.  If we are ever going to advance beyond our spiritual infancy, we MUST stop looking at the differences in our Religions and begin seeing the similarities.  One place to start is thinking about what we read and WHY it seems that MANY of the books that are on the Banned Book List are there for religious reasons.  Again (now I may ruffle some feathers here) why is an organization that SHOULD be practicing inclusion, love, peace, finding ways to ferment exclusion?

Of Mice and Men
Challenged at the Newton (IA) High School because of concerns about profanity and the portrayal of Jesus Christ. Newton High School has required students to read the book since at least the early 1980's. Retained in the Olathe (KS) 9th-grade curriculum despite a parent calling the novel a "worthless, profanity-riddled book" which is "derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.":
Marshall University Library
Reasons: offensive language, racism, violence:
language, racial themes

My Thoughts
By the time someone reaches High School, you would think they would be familiar with profanity.  If a book isn’t available in a school setting, that will not prevent someone from finding it.  And as stated in my thoughts above, by telling someone you can’t do something, that will only make it more desirable.  As an example the next time you have an opportunity, put something closeby to someone.  Then tell them they cannot look at it.  How quickly did they look at it.  It’s a simple reflex.  You HAVE to look at it.

It’s the same way with banning books, banning movies, whatever.  You’re calling more attention to something by saying No!  You can’t look at that.

In Closing
My entire philosophy on books and reading was molded early in my childhood.  As a writer myself from a young age, I always felt that in order to improve my writing skills and not just being a writer but being an educated person, I’ve always felt we should be exposed to EVERY form of literature.  ANYTHING to get someone interested in reading is a good thing.  Whether it be comic books (now called graphic novels) romance whatever.  If you’re reading that can only improve your education.

My friend, Jason who developed a long friendship with Ray Bradbury was fond of telling a story about Bradbury.  He said:
Because Bradbury spent so many hours in the public library, he (Bradbury) liked to say he graduated from Public Library.  I’ve ALWAYS loved that sentiment and I think we can all benefit from graduating from Library.

Until next time...
Turn the page!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

shoregirl September 28, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Beth is a smart woman to recommend you to write! Very interesting first blog and I look forward to reading more from you...Great Job, Chris!
Christopher Jennings Penders September 28, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Thanks, Shoregirl. Means a great deal when I get comments such as this! I'll be blogging about books twice a month. Look for my next blog in a couple weeks. I also have this set up on Wordpress: http://scrantonpageturner.wordpress.com/


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