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Strolling down the streets of Santa Barbara one afternoon several years ago, I came across a sandwich-board sign outside a bookstore promoting Banned Book Week.  Intrigued, I read a partial list of books that had been banned for various reasons in different locations around the country.  The store encouraged people to participate in their “Read From Your Favorite Banned Book” event that Saturday.

I was startled to see a book from my childhood – “Harriet the Spy.” Apparently, somewhere in Iowa or Idaho (don’t remember which), there were issues with Harriet’s lying, spying, talking back, and cursing (words she had actually made up).  I was so annoyed at this blatant absurdity, I signed up for a 15-minute slot.

When I arrived for my allotted reading time that weekend, a reporter and cameraman approached me, asking for an interview, to which I agreed.  Not only was my interview on the evening news, but a segment of my reading was used as a promotional piece. 

Take that, Idaho or Iowa!  Harriet rules.  Bwahaha.

There are books, of course, that carry heavier tones; highlighting stark, harsh realities of the human condition.  They can make some readers uncomfortable.  Does that mean those books should be banned or restricted simply because a small portion of the population doesn’t agree with them? 

Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was one of thirteen books petitioned by parents in a Kansas school district to be removed from all classrooms because of “vulgar language, sexual explicitness, or violent imagery that is gratuitously employed.” Ms. Angelou wasn’t writing a book of fiction.  It spoke of actual, personal violent childhood experiences.

At the turn of the century, children’s lives were not peaches and cream, and books written during that time reflected it.  The same is true of language, including racial slang.  To learn how to improve the human condition, it helps to learn about the past.  If one desires a true education of history, it is important that these writings be available. 

Ironically, what these purveyors of manipulation and control don’t understand is the more they attempt to prevent a book’s availability, the greater the interest. 

“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”   Judy Blume

The capstone of the irony pyramid is the Bible – the book on which so many of these protests are based.  What novel today could compete with its sex, incest, violence, slavery and mass murder?

What does this have to do with personal histories or biographies?  Everything.  One of the questions I ask clients is whether they read books when they were younger and, if so, which ones they specifically remember.  Books are educational and insightful; they broaden one’s perspectives and views, influencing a life journey.

A short list of books that have been banned:

Brave New World The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Gatsby Grimm’s Fairy Tales
All the King’s Men Little House on the Prairie
Catch 22 Lord of the Flies
James and the Giant Peach Huckleberry Finn
Catcher in the Rye The Color Purple
Gone With the Wind One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next

What book(s) most influenced you that have been banned?

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