Each of these literary landmarks has one thing in common: they have all been targeted for censorship and the wrath of individuals and organizations that don’t want you to know, much less think about, what’s between the covers and the printed pages of these classic books.
Banned Books Week, slated for September 24 through October 1, is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment; it highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.
So why were these initial books(listed at the start of the story) the targets of censorship?
Andersonville (1955) by MacKinlay Kantor was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1956, tells the difficult and horrific story of a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War; it was viciously attacked throughout the U.S. and banned in Amarillo, TX.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. This book was banned and/or challenged more than once. It was banned in Srongsville, Ohio in 1972 and that decision was overturned in 1976. It was also challenged in Dallas, Texas (1974) and again in Snoqualmie, Washington (1979). Among other things, Catch-22 is a general critique of bureaucratic operation and reasoning.
Dictionary of American Slang by T.Y. Crowell, publisher. Max Rafferty, California superintendent of public instruction in 1963, and his supporters found over 150 “dirty” passages in the book. Hey people…it’s slang and it permeates our culture.
The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You To Read (1995) by Tim C. Leedom, Editor. The book traces astrological and mythical origins of modern day western religions. A Barnes & Noble bookstore in San Diego refused to stock this book because of its content.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews The county’s board of education decided to remove all school curriculum materials and library books containing any and all “profanity” and “pornography,” both concepts ill-defined. However, after this conciliatory decision, and while the review process still inches along, most of the books in Andrews’s popular series Flowers in the Attic were removed from the high-school library for “pornographic” content. The discussion of incest between an adolescent brother and sister in the novel has led to its being banned in certain areas at different times. Chariho High School in Rhode Island removed it because it contained “offensive passages concerning incest and sexual intercourse.” In 1994, it was removed from the Oconee County and school libraries due to “the filthiness of the material.”
From Here to Eternity by James Jones. This book was censored in 1951in Holyoke and Springfield, Massachusetts and in 1953 in Jersey City, New Jersey; blacklisted by National Organization of Decent Literature in 1954. The novel chronicled the drinking, brawling and illicit affairs of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before Pearl Harbor.
Forever by Judy Blume. The book’s success was not without controversy. The discussion of incest between an adolescent brother and sister in the novel has led to its being banned in certain areas at different times. Chariho High School in Rhode Island removed it because it contained “offensive passages concerning incest and sexual intercourse.” In 1994, it was removed from the Oconee County school libraries due to “the filthiness of the material.”
Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck. Several months after the book’s publication, a St. Louis, MO library ordered 3 copies to be burned for the vulgar words used by its characters. It was also banned in Kansas City and in Oklahoma. Part of its impact stemmed from its passionate depiction of the plight of the poor. Bryan Cordyack writes, “Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book’s depiction of California farmers’ attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a ‘pack of lies’ and labeled it ‘communist propaganda.’
As Business and Heritage Clarksville moves through September and toward the official Banned Books Week celebrations, we will celebrate not only banned books but a variety of books — personal choices – selected by our staff, that can promote discussion, debate — or be read simply for the pure pleasure of explore a good book.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 2011, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; and PEN American Center also signed on as sponsors.
For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events, Ideas and Resources, and the new Banned Books Week site. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently challenged books of the 21st century
Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.
A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges.
Background Information: 2001 to 2010
Over the past nine years, American libraries were faced with 4,659 challenges.
- 1,536 challenges due to “sexually explicit” material
- 1,231 challenges due to “offensive language”
- 977 challenges due to material deemed “unsuited to age group”
- 553 challenges due to “violence”
- 370 challenges due to “homosexuality”
Further, 121 materials were challenged because they were “anti-family,” and an additional 304 were challenged because of their “religious viewpoints.”
1,720 of these challenges (approximately 37%) were in classrooms; 30% (or1,432) were in school libraries; 24% (or 1,119) took place in public libraries. There were 32 challenges to college classes; and 106 to academic libraries. There are isolated cases of challenges to materials made available in or by prisons, special libraries, community groups, and student groups. The majority of challenges were initiated by parents (almost exactly 48%), while patrons and administrators followed behind (10% each).
Find out if your favorite book has been banned or challenged by exploring the top ten lists of the 21st century.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
For more information on getting involved with Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, please see Calendar of Events and Ideas and Resources. You can also contact the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4220, or email@example.com.
I was a late arrival to the world of Harry Potter. The first couple of films passed by without catching my attention, and I didn’t read book one until the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was already collecting dust on shelves. They seemed fun enough, but I dismissed them as mere children’s fantasy and just wasn’t my cup of tea.
That was, until I found out that they were the single most often banned book in the United States. Never mind the fact that the book was at the top of nearly every best-seller list in America or that the film series has grossed billions worldwide. Harry’s just not welcome in some circles. Poor Harry. Must be the lightning bolt scar.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. This was the country where 19 people were hanged or drowned during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Top that with the fact that I live in the state that embarrassed the nation with its laughable Scopes Monkey Trial a couple centuries later. Now throw into the mix the modern lunacy of the ‘birther’ movement that claims that the President of the United States wasn’t really born in Honolulu (despite presenting an official birth certificate, and passing FBI and CIA security tests to serve on the Senate Homeland Security Committee). Blend thoroughly. Garnish with the twit that wanted to burn Qurans in Florida. Serve while hot. This is a classic recipe for political insanity, religious-driven hysteria, and outright stupidity. Of course Harry would be banned.
Naturally, as soon as I learned that the Harry Potter series was often ripped from shelves — on the accusation that it “taught witchcraft,” nonetheless — I had to check it out. Being a world-class movie nerd, I started with the first movie. In many cases, the “see the movie before you read the book” method would be enough to turn someone away from the story (like the horrible 2006 film adaptation of Eragon).
Thankfully, I found the first film charming enough to borrow a well-read copy from my nephew. “They left out a couple of chapters of the book when they made the movie,” he explained as he cautiously loaned me his prized book. “But the movie was still good.” With that high praise, I quickly buried myself in the story.
Having been a student of Wicca before I returned to my Christian path, I was intrigued as to what the “witchcraft” that the book “taught” really was. Wicca, in case you’re not sure, is a modern conglomeration of several Celtic pagan beliefs which is tied together with the old English word for “witch.” It’s a religion of nature, which is essentially pantheistic — everything has deity, and deity is in everything. The religion itself is centered around a simple rule: Do nothing to harm anyone, and whatever you do will be returned threefold.
Many of today’s evangelical and fundamentalist Christians instantly (and incorrectly) associate Wicca and modern witches with “devil worship” and “evil.” So what happens when an English mom writes a story about a boy wizard and his friends? Why, they go apoplectic of course. “It’s witchcraft!” Some have declared that the series “glorifies the occult.” Seriously? Okay, someone’s clearly had a few too many earwax-flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Some of the other “witchcraft” in the books are potions that change a person’s appearance (polyjuice), two wands that have the feather tail of a phoenix, an invisibility cloak, a magic mirror, and an entire world devoted to the realm of magic.
Okay, the kids ride brooms. I’d take the criticisms of this book series from my all-too-zealous neighbors a little more seriously if I saw twelve-year-olds flying around on broomsticks. “But they teach spells!” One might say. Let’s be honest here… does ‘expelliarmus’ really disarm someone? Does ‘wingardium leviosa’ actually make feathers fly? Of course they don’t. And any Wiccan would laugh at the notion that these are really “spells,” let alone related to their belief system.
So why ban these books? Fear. Fear of imagination, wonder, and something outside the norm. The fear of “witches” or “witchcraft” is rooted in an even more awkward fear of the Christian concept of the devil — and as a result, gives far too much power to that prince of darkness (especially ironic since according to Christian tradition, the devil is just another created entity — ultimately inferior to the God that created him). It’s a classic irony: the fear of oppression and darkness that actually gives rise to the oppression and darkness that was feared in the first place. This kind of simple-minded rigidity that rejects everything outside its own tiny little box of a world — is itself the product of the very oppression that Harry and his friends fight against!
The greatest spell in the first book was love. Clearly, this was not anything that was evil, and certainly wouldn’t corrupt anyone. What was more profound than anything else was the fact that this little boy wizard had gotten children — millions of them — to read. Like those throngs of readers, I was hooked. Even before I finished reading my nephew’s copy, I had purchased my own copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the next four books of the series that were available. In a matter of mere weeks, I had become yet another victim of Pottermania, breathlessly awaiting book six.
By the time book seven was released in the summer of 2007, the series had reached its fever pitch as a worldwide phenomenon. Christine Piesyk and I were part of another local community blog at the time, and we split up to cover two states’ worth of release parties. I happened to be in the Mall of America in Minneapolis and witnessed the massive line that was already forming at 5:00 p.m., and witnessed first-hand the throngs of fans at our local Books-A-Million that night. To say that the store was wall-to-wall with people would be a bit of an understated fact.
If you’re one of the three or four people worldwide who hasn’t read Harry’s tales, then I won’t spoil it for you — but suffice to say that this is a story about growing up, having friends, dealing with teachers they love or hate, pesky parents, first love, and a classic battle between pure-hearted good and the darkest evil.
These are stories that inspire the imagination, tug at the heart, and give the thrill of adventure that readers crave. They’ve inspired several other series (including Eoin Colfer’s wonderful Artemis Fowl series). The notion of banning this now classic series makes about as much sense as it does to expect Professor Snape to use shampoo.
Every day during September and through the end of Banned Books Week (October 2), Business & Heritage Clarksville will run commentary on at least one of the Top 100 Banned Books of the period 2000-2010.
John Irvings A Prayer for Owen Meany, first published in 1989, comes in at a prolific 852 pages. The novel revolves around the friendship of young boys and their progression into adulthood. The story is told from the narrative perspective of John Wheelwright, best friend of the central character Owen Meany.
Owen is a small, physically fragile child possessed with a steadfast conviction that his fate is predestined and directed by God. As such, he sees his destiny as unavoidable and scuffs at any attempt to deviate him from his preordained fate. He has a strong rigid religious conviction, which drives him throughout the story. Although his voice is similarly small, even shrill, like his body size, Owen, because of his spiritual conviction of destiny, speaks with commanding presence.
Being the small person that he is, Owen bears the burnt of many taunts and jokes of his contemporaries, including his best friend, John Wheelwright. He suffers these indignities with no real malice towards his classmates or his friends in later life. That Owen is the instrument of a tragic Wheelwright family disaster only further bonds the two boys and strengthens Owen conviction that “God has set a path for him and he must follow it.” He makes a promise John’s mother to “always be there for John.”
Owen joins the military and faces danger in Vietnam, but he sees this as no real challenge; he knows his appointed time of death and Vietnam is not it. Tragedies of war surround him, but Owen looks to that further fateful day he alone knows is coming. He does regret nor bemoan his fate; to the contrary, he takes personal pride in what is to be his fate, his purpose in life fulfilled. With knowledge of what is to come, he finds meaning in his existence and with that satisfaction.
Themes of friendship, bonding, the harshness of war, humankind’s ability to be cruel, insensitive, even abusive, predestination, self-sacrifice, a critique of the Vietnam War — all of these elements have some place in this story. In the end,though, it is about John and Owen and, ultimately, it’s Owen’s tale that is center stage. A Prayer for Owen Meany is an intriguing, albeit sometimes trying, worthy read.
A Prayer for Owen Meany has had challenges on two fronts. Although the book opens with declaring that “Owen Meany is the reason I believe in God,” that is not what some have found offensive. In 1992, in Carlise, Pennsylvania, the book was pulled from the Boilings Springs High School senior literature class after several parents complained of content and language. Later in 2000, the book was challenged in West Virginia’s Kanawha County high schools as “pornographic, offensive and vulgar.” The novel is on the county book list for suggested reading material for the eleventh and twelfth grades.
Following the lives of Seth and her daughter Denver, Beloved is a gripping story of courage and desperation as Seth and her children escape from slavery. Seth and Denver live in a home haunted by the angry ghost of Seth’s murdered daughter, Beloved, who is killed at the hands of Seth herself in a frantic attempt to prevent her master schoolteacher from taking them back to the plantation they bitterly know as “Sweet Home.”
Seth, desperate and irrational, seizes her children and takes them into the tool shed to kill them one by one. Seth murders just one, two-year-old Beloved, whose throat she slices. Seth’s two sons, Howard and Buglar, are so traumatized by the haunting of 124 Bluestone that they run away from home by the age of thirteen. After becoming reacquainted with fellow slave Paul D, who comes to visit their home, the haunting spirit of Beloved is thought to have been driven out by Paul D himself.
Paul D convinces Seth and Denver to come out of seclusion and attend to a carnival. When the three return from a liberating day at the carnival, they find a mysterious woman sitting in the front yard, a woman with distinct baby-like features. She says her name is Beloved. Denver is convinced that Beloved is her dead sister reincarnated; Seth is equally convinced once Beloved questions things only her dead child would know.
Should this book be challenged? Well, all I can say is if a child chooses to go into the library and check this book out, kudos. If a child can make it past the first chapter, astonishing! If a child can finish this book; hooray — they should be congratulated!
Beloved is filled with broken English and language that can be confusing even to an adult, but this story provides insight into the horrific past and turmoil that those who lived during slavery endured? Beloved is a story that touches these issues and with very graphic detail and gruesome truth.
I cannot speak for parents who want this book banned; I can understand the concerns they face. Although I can understand, I will not say I agree, because Beloved is a novel that entails a tragic part of history. No one may agree with Seth’s decision to take her own young daughters life in her anxious attempt to prevent them from living a life of bondage and brutality. It was a horrible mistake that haunted her from that moment on. In the book she explained her motives of doing so as “trying to put my babies in a safe place.” It speaks volumes of the hardships slaves faced that a mother would kill her own child before she let it live the life that herself had escaped.
I feel for this reason this book should not be banned. Beloved also has sexual situations that occur in addition to the overall story — a story rooted in Black History — that the author is trying to convey. Beloved is a story that can be loved or hated; either way Toni Morrison has done a miraculous job in telling such a gripping story.
Every day during September and through the end of Banned Books Week (October 2), Business & Heritage Clarksville will run commentary on at least one of the Top 100 Banned Books of the period 2000-2010.
Fallen Angels is a story of courage and conflict. It revisits the confusion surrounding soldiers’ roles in the Vietnam War. Told from the viewpoint of 17-year-old Richie Perry, a black high school graduate from Harlem who believed a knee injury would spare him “in country” duty, Fallen Angels explores the reality of his terror in a war zone, the firefights and bombing, the killings, and the deaths of his friends — the “Fallen Angels.” It is a horrifying and real depiction of war in the jungles of Vietnam.
The racial tension of the novel is almost secondary to the fear created by war. Ritchie is immersed in death and horrible injuries as soon as his boots high foreign soil. Witness escalating levels of violence, destruction and outright brutality, his watches the lines between good and bad become an indistinguishable blur. He loses faith in his commanding officers, and begin a close examination of the morality of war, and of this war in particular.
As the story unfolds, Richie yearns to be stateside again. Though he thought he would be a hero to his younger brother, that dream shatters under the effort involved in simply staying alive. He questions the motivation behind his own enlistment, and seeks uncertainty when he thinks of his own future.
Richie is wounded in a battle and transferred to a hospital where in a period of recuperation he remembers the joys of safety and gains a new understanding of the horrors of war. When he is declared healthy and ordered to rejoin his unit, he questions how he can possibly go back into combat and considers desertion.
Slowly, he finds a new spirituality and a growing bond with the men he serves with. As he becomes a part of the whole, forging bonds with his fellow soldiers, the war changes him irrevocably and makes the world an alien nation.
Apart from the horror of war, Fallen Angels explores race, courage, morality and friendship. The graphic details of war have proved offensive to those who opt to challenge this book. Those who challenge this book cite vulgar language, sexual explicitness, or violent imagery that is gratuitously employed.
Every day during September and through the end of Banned Books Week (October 2), Business & Heritage Clarksville will run commentary on at least one of the Top 100 Banned Books of the period 2000-2010.
Barbara Park is a prolific writer of books for younger children. Her humorous Junie B. Jones series begins following the title character in kindergarten and first grade; the adventures are hilarious to children who are “beginning readers” and have the adults laughing aloud as well as they follow Junie’s adventures in learning to ride a “stupid smelly school bus,” school bus, her first encounter with her kindergarten teacher and he attempts at trouble-avoidance year in first grade.
Junie B. Jones evolved from another Park’s book, The Kid in the Red Jacket. In discussing Junie B. Jones, Park’s commented, “I think kids love her because (like them) she isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes, and she gets in trouble, and she definitely has a bit of a temper. All of these things make her seem more real. Creative teachers find so many great ways to use these books in the classroom. English lessons are built around Junie B.’s “incorrect” grammar. And, of course, her bad behavior provides lots of topics for discussion. As far as parents, I’ve heard from many moms and dads who read these books with their kids. They tell me they all laugh together. I love that!”
Junie B. Jones incurs the wrath of parents who are offended by her occasional mispronunciations of words. Commentator Jim Trelease wrote in 2001, “The alarm over Junie B. is her impetuousness and use of words like “stupid,” along with an occasional errant sense of grammar. Indeed, she has the same persistent trouble with “pasketti” (spaghetti) that President Bush (had) with “nucular” (nuclear)… The Junie B. Jones books are creative fiction, they’re not grammar or spelling books and let’s all thank God for that. What we have in her is what has always been missing from textbooks—something you’d like to hang around with after school.”
Potty jokes aside (and what kids doesn’t tell them or hear them or laugh at them), impetuousness is another of Junie’s perceived faults. Junie B. Jones is a real kids, stumbling around, finding her way, discovering her likes and dislikes. She’s a kid. We’ve all been there, but perhaps some of Junie B. Jones critics have forgotten what it is like to be a child. The titles of the Junie books tell a story all their own:
Junie B. Jones Bibliography:
- Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
- Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business
- Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth
- Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying
- Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake
- Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim’s Birthday
- Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren
- Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed
- Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
- Junie B. Jones Is a Party Animal
- Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy
- Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy
- Junie B. Jones Is (Almost) a Flower Girl
- Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime
- Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket
- Junie B. Jones Is Captain Field Day
- Junie B. Jones Is a Graduation Girl
Junie B. Jones, First Grader
- Junie B., First Grader (at last!
- Junie B., First Grader: Boss of Lunch
- Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder
- Junie B., First Grader: Cheater Pants
- Junie B., First Grader: One-Man Band
- Junie B., First Grader: Shipwrecked
- Junie B., First Grader: BOO…and I MEAN It!
- Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May.)
- Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha!
- Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny
Top Secret, Personal Beeswax: A Journal by Junie B. (and me!)
- Junie B.’s Essential Survival Guide to School
Junie B. personifies childhood, with its fears, insecurities, and occasional misbehaviors. If she got away with every transgression, we might consider her a bad example, but the fact is that Junie B. gets her fair share of chastisement and punishments. She’s as real as it gets for many children; in fact in one school a teacher developed a notable theft problem specific to Junie B. books: students were stealing them, or rather, taking them home and never returning them. That didn’t happen with any other books, Just “Junie.” The next big reading craze came along with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which ripped children away from their video games, TV and computers transplanted them to bookstores and libraries — around the world.
It must also be noted that the hefty number of illustrations in the Junie B. books capture all the charm, whimsy and quirkiness that is a part of childhood. Children find the illustrations funny and “real” while adult simply smile at the humor captured in every drawing.
Barbara Park has won seven Children’s Choice Awards, and four Parents’ Choice Awards.
The Perks of Being a Wallfower explores introversion, teenage sexuality, abuse, and the awkwardness of adolescence. The story also touches strongly on drug use and Charlie’s experiences with this. As the story progresses, various works of literature and film are referenced and their meanings discussed.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes place in a Pittsburgh suburb circa the 1991–1992 school year. Charlie, a high school freshman, is coping with autism. He isis the wallflower of the novel, an unconventional thinker, shy and unpopular.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower reveals a boy’s struggle with the loss of a friend as well as the loss of an aunt. By writing Charlie learns about himself, dealing with love, alienation, depression, mental instability, and the many other things children encounter in high school. On a darker side, Charlie confronts his own molestation by a family member.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower details the expansive world that adolescents have to deal with in today’s world. Using and dealing with drugs, alcohol, sex are an everyday occurrence for Charlie. Chbosky pays homage to J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and cities it as one of the books Charlie’s English teacher gives him to read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was third on the American Library Association’s list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009, for the book’s treatment of drugs, homosexuality, sex, and suicide.
The parents, of Parents Protecting the Minds of Children in Arkansas objected to the profane language and depictions of sexuality in many of the books and have accused the librarians and other opponents of their efforts of promoting a “homosexual agenda”. PPMC objects to this book because of its depictions of gay sex.
Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa was the first widely published South African autobiography written in English by a black native. The initial 1986 American publication stunned readers, forcing many to rethink American support of South African business and government.
Mathabane had published various essays and articles to educate Americans about the horrors of apartheid; when two of his brothers-in-law were shot and killed at point-blank range by a black police officer, he feared that the murders might have been a retaliation to one of his recently published Newsday articles. Mathabane agonized over the harm his political writing might bring to his family who still remained at home in Alexandra, but believed that ignoring racial intimidation and violence would not make it go away.
Kaffir is a derogatory name whites use for blacks in South Africa. “The word Kaffir is of Arabic origin. It means ‘infidel.’ In South Africa it is used disparagingly by most whites to refer to blacks. It is the equivalent of the term nigger. I was called a ‘Kaffir’ many times,” says Mathabane in an explanatory note that precedes the autobiography.
In this autobiography, Mathabane describes growing up in the black ghetto of Alexandra in South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. He and his family live in a two-room shack with no running water, heat, or electricity. Under South Africa’s system of apartheid, their lives are a daily struggle to survive. They endure frequent police raids, and Mathabane’s father is arrested and subjected to forced labor on a white-owned farm. The mother and children must scavenge for food in garbage dumps. Mathabane’s mother is determined, however, that her son should go to school and gain an education in order to have a better life.
Mathabane excels in school, and, inspired by African-American tennis player Arthur Ashe, he takes up tennis. During the student uprisings of the 1970s, Mathabane participates in protests against apartheid, but he dreams of escaping from South Africa entirely by gaining a tennis scholarship to an American university. With the help of American tennis player Stan Smith, whom he meets at a tournament his dream becomes a reality.
Kaffir Boy was challenged on the basis of sexual violence and graphic language in the book.
Oprah Winfrey, upon reading the book,bought the film rights and arranged a family reunion with Mathabane and his family as guests on her show. Afterwards, his popularity and literary success skyrocketed. Kaffir Boy quickly became a national bestseller, translated into seven languages. By the year 2000, Mathabane had published four more works of nonfiction, which, like Kaffir Boy, would address mankind’s pressing need to abolish—once and for all—racial injustice, child abuse, spouse abuse, alcoholism, illiteracy, poverty, and disease.
Aldous Huxley’s futuristic novel, Brave New World, was written in 1931 and published in 1932. Set in London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurism.
The novel opens in London in the “year of our Ford 632″ (AD 2540 in the Gregorian Calendar). The vast majority of the population is unified under The World State, an eternally peaceful, stable global society in which goods and resources are plentiful and population is permanently limited to no more than two billion people. Natural reproduction has been done away with; children are created, ‘decanted’ and raised in hatcheries and conditioning centres, where they are divided into five castes designed to fulfill predetermined positions within the social and economic strata of the World State. People of these castes make up the majority of human society, and the production of such specialized children bolsters the efficiency and harmony of society, since these people are deliberately limited in their cognitive and physical abilities, as well as the scope of their ambitions and the complexity of their desires, thus rendering them easier to motivate, manipulate and control. All children are educated via the hypnopaedic process, which simultaneously provides each child with fact-based education and caste-appropriate subconscious messages to mold the child’s life-long self-image, class conscientious, social outlook, habits, tastes, morals, ambitions and prejudices, and other values and ideals chosen by the leaders of the World State and their predetermined plans for producing future adult generations.
To maintain the World State’s Command Economy for the indefinite future, all citizens are conditioned from birth to value consumption with such platitudes as “ending is better than mending,” i.e., buy a new one instead of fixing the old one, because constant consumption, and near-universal employment to meet society’s material demands, is the bedrock of economic and social stability for the World State. The need for transcendence, solitude and spiritual communion is addressed with the ubiquitous availability and universally-endorsed consumption of the drug soma. Soma is an allusion to a mythical drink of the same name consumed by ancient Indo-Aryans. In the book, soma is a hallucinogen that takes users on enjoyable, hangover-free “holidays”, developed by the World State to provide such inner-directed personal experiences within the socially-managed context of State-run ‘religious’ organizations. In this society:
- Recreational sex is an integral part of society. According to The World State, sex is a social activity, rather than a means of reproduction, and sexual activity is encouraged from early childhood.
- Spending time alone is considered an outrageous waste of time and money.
- In The World State, people typically die at age 60.
- The conditioning system eliminates the need for professional competitiveness; people are literally bred to do their jobs and cannot desire another.Thus the story of one social future begins…
In 1980, it was removed from classrooms in Miller, Missouri among other challenges. In 1993, an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove the novel from a California school’s required reading list because it “centered around negative activity”.
In 1982, Polish author Antoni Smuszkiewicz accused Huxley od plagiarism against Huxley, presenting similarities between Brave New World and two science fiction novels written by Polish author Mieczys?aw Smolarski, namely The City of the Sun (1924) and The Honeymoon Trip of Mr. Hamilton (1928).
In Brave New World Revisited, Huxley concluded that the world was becoming like Brave New World much faster than he originally thought.
Huxley analyzed possible causes such as overpopulation as well as means of population control. He was particularly interested in the effects of drugs and subliminal suggestion. Brave New World Revisited is different in tone because of Huxley’s evolving thought, as well as his conversion to Hindu Vedanta in the interim between the two books. The last chapter of the book aims to propose actions which could be taken in order to prevent a democracy from turning into the totalitarian world described in Brave New World.
From the time I began reading John Steinbeck in 8th grade, I have been passionate about his books — The Pearl, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men... In fact, a visit to California in 1991 brought me to the Cannery Row of literary acclaim — true Steinbeck country.
Of Mice and Men is a novella, a small novel set in the Great Depression (1937); it’s the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, migrant workers in California, who are about to confront tragedy.
George is an intelligent, cynical man; his companion on the road is Lennie, a big man of immense strength but very limited mental abilities. The two arrive at a ranch near Salinas in the hope of “working up a stake” to buy land of their own. Weak-minded Lennie only dreams of raising soft rabbits on that piece of land.
George holds the role of protector over Lennie, using the dreamed of rabbits as a tool to control the larger man. As the story unfolds, the two are running out of town after Lennie’s love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman’s dress.
At the ranch, the dream appears to move closer to reality. Candy, the aged, one-handed ranch-hand, even offers to pitch in with Lennie and George so they can buy the farm by the end of the month. The dream crashes when Lennie accidentally kills the young and attractive wife of Curley, the ranch owner’s son, while trying to stroke her hair. A lynch mob led by Curley gathers. George, realizing he is doomed to a life of loneliness and despair like the rest of the migrant workers and wanting to spare Lennie a painful death at the hands of the vengeful and violent Curley, shoots Lennie in the back of the head before the mob can find him after George gives him one last retelling of their dream of owning their own land.
Required reading in many high schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive language; in addition, challengers cite racism and violence. Consequently, Of Mice and Men appears on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.
Steinbeck uses dreams throughout the book: George’s desire independence, to be his own boss, to have a homestead, and most importantly to be “somebody”. Lennie dreams of being with George on a place of their own where he can sate himself fixation on soft objects. Crooks aspires to a small homestead where he can have security. Curley’s wife dreams to be an actress, not a farm wife.
Loneliness and a desire for companionship characterize many lives in this story, yet Steinbeck emphasizes how the nature of loneliness is sustained by the very barriers that derive from acting inhuman to one another. The loneliness of Curley’s wife is fueled by Curley’s jealousy, which causes all the ranch hands to avoid her. Crooks’s barrier results from being barred from the bunkhouse by restraining him to the stable; his bitterness is partially broken, however, through Lennie’s ignorance.
Steinbeck’s characters are often powerless, due to intellectual, economic, and social circumstances. In Of Mice and Men, Lennie’s great physical strength — which should therefore establish a sense of respect — is mitigated by his intellectual handicap. Economic powerlessness is rampant during their economic times of the Great Depression.