This is a review of 2011’s most controversial banned books cases from around America. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come, yet how much further we have to go to develop literary tolerance. What follows is a top three countdown of the most shocking bans on literature. One of these books is a classic, seemingly untouchable to the criticism of prying parents. One is a relatively new work, challenged after the critically acclaimed movie adaptation was released. The final, most egregious ban reeks of religious intolerance. All three of these texts are seminal in their genres. Their tribulations are manifestations of the importance of free speech. These books can become an introduction to students of various influences outside their personal sphere of knowledge.
Text number three is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This cornerstone of 20th century literature tells the tale of a future completely different yet eerily similar to our present day. Test tube babies and recreational drug use are just two of the similarities of this book’s predictions to the modern world. A third example that Brave New World shares with reality is the dissolution of the American Dream. In the book, people are born to certain castes and stay that way their whole life because they were either stunted or strengthened during the fetal stages. Children in Brave New World are programed during their sleep to disregard becoming any greater than the class into which they were born. This is frightening and seemingly far off from our society, but with the world economy the way it is today, one cannot say it’s easy to move up the financial and social ladder anymore.
Brave New World was challenged, but eventually retained in a Seattle, Washington high school for racially insensitive and offensive language. Yes, the book does display Native Americans in a derogatory way. The main character and his love interest go on a “holiday” to one of their reservations to see the “savages.” These probably weren’t Huxley’s views on diversity, but they were definitely part of the society in the book’s views. For the sake of literary continuity with the rest of the text, those sections had to be written in an offensive manner. This book is an allegory and a warning to the world during which it was written to change… or else. Huxley wanted Brave New World to display a dystopia, offensive racial views and all. Kudos to the school district for keeping the book as an option on their language arts curriculum.
Book number two was recently turned into a celebrated movie called “Precious.” The book, Push by Ramona Lofton, is the heart-wrenchingly devastating story of Precious Jones. Born into poverty and repeatedly raped by her father, she was illiterate at age sixteen. Pregnant with her father’s second child, she learns throughout the book to read and is empowered to become her own person.
This book was on the extracurricular reading list in the Horry County, South Carolina school library. It was challenged for its mature themes and upsetting images. Push, written in 1996, was just challenged in 2011. This is probably a direct correlation to the movie adaptation released in 2009. First of all, it is ludicrous to challenge books for their movie counterparts because the films are modifications of the original stories. The book, most likely, was borrowed more often because of the movie and this brought it to an overprotective parent’s attention. One cannot shelter their child forever, especially from real issues that happen in our world. Of course it’s scary, but it is our responsibility to our progeny to let them read about these atrocities to prevent those actions in the future.
The first, most scandalous instance of defamation to literary freedom in 2011 happened in a Gainesville, Florida church. In the Dove World Outreach Center, Evangelical pastor Terry Jones burned the Qur’an. In this enlightened era, this action is unfathomable. He held a mock trial and found the book (that’s right, he put an inanimate object on trial) guilty of crimes against humanity. This book is sacred to millions of people around the world. To tell someone, in such a flamboyant way, that their widely held religious beliefs are a crime against humanity is completely inexcusable. This backwoods “man of God” is so intolerant as to burn a book as precious as the Bible is to Christians. Do we live in Nazi Germany? Didn’t think so.
What Jones refuses to believe is that the terrorists of the 9/11 attacks were radical Muslims, who do not represent the whole population of fair-minded Muslims. To find a book guilty after an eight minute trial and order it “executed” shows this man’s unbelievable lack of sensitivity for cultures outside his own. It’s a shame because he completely discredits the name of his Gainesville church which is obviously not peacefully dove-like or outreaching. Jones represents them as being more hateful and insular.
Even in 2011, there are overwhelming attacks on the freedom of speech accompanying the written word. Whether in the guise of parental guidance or in a misguided patriotic act against terrorism, books are continuing to be challenged around America. By reading books banned, challenged, or misunderstood, we can broaden our literary horizons and expand our knowledge of less discussed issues.