I’ve always been a bit of a history fanatic.
It’s fascinating for a writer like me who (though I write fantasy) likes to incorporate historical elements in my books. If I was a little sounder in research, maybe I’d try my hand at historical fiction. And the best part about history? It happened! I read the books and see the old pictures and hear the tales. History is our past and sometimes it’s what defines our future.
Why would we want to forget that?
To me, banning books is like covering up the past.
Yes. Bad things happened. Horrible, evil and cruel things happened all through history. Most of them are shameful. I’m an Australian and we have a brutal past of mistreating the native people of our land. So do the Americans. Slavery ran rampant in Europe and most of America. People were treated like dirt. It’s disgusting and it’s shameful and it’s cruel. Does banning books (historical books, I’m talking about right now) mean we want to cover up that past and forget it never happened?
Do we want to repeat history?
These are a few banned books (with historical elements) that I’ve either read, am reading, or have in my to-read pile (which is ever growing and eyeballing me reproachfully right now).
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Little House on the Prairie
Not Without My Daughter
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
All Quiet on the Western Front
To Kill a Mockingbird
All Quiet on the Western Front and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are great books for learning about the war. They tell a terrible story, but it happened.
I love To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only does it carry a powerful and interesting story, with characters I’ll never forget, it deals with the meaningful issue of racism. That’s still a current topic today that many nations struggle with. This book is history. Raw. Unfair. Prejudice.
The Outsiders is also one of my very favourite books (the controversial ones are interesting, okay?). When I researched why it hit the banned list, ah, can I say – complete shock? The story is set in the 1960s in the back alleys of the USA, where social status rule the world and where you were born defines you. The book is banned for references to smoking, alcohol, excessive violence, obscenities, slang (and get ready for this one) family dysfunction. (Yikes! Someone ban family life!)
That was life back then! Plus The Outsiders was written about teenagers by a teenager and who would see and know better than someone who experienced it all first-hand? Are we saying, by banning the book, that we don’t want to know what their lives were like? Sure, there are awful things in that book. I’m glad I wasn’t born in that “world”, where I needed to take a knife to school to ensure I’d get home okay. But if that world is uncomfortable and horrible to you and you don’t want to know anything about – (to quote Charley R) why pick up the book?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a hilariousbook. I’m nearly at the end (yes, I missed my deadline, because this wassupposed to be a book review on Huck), and I keep finding myself laughing out loud. If, for no other reason, read it for the humour. Mark Twain is sharp and witty. But the reasons it’s banned? Obviously for the incredible racism slurs and the frequent and unrepented use of the word “nigger”. I’m not pardoning those facts. But I am pointing out that was how they talked and acted back then. Just because it was shameful and we regret it today doesn’t mean we can pretend it never happened. Right?
History is important. And it’s also shameful.
So do we lock away those books outlining our shame and cruelty, or do we read them, learn from them and stop history repeating itself?
I can’t say it any better than Mark Twain himself:
“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.”