Book banning has been a major topic of all of my feeds lately. I have to admit, I have never read “Maus” by Art Spiegelman which has made recent headlines after a school board in McMinn County, Tennessee banned the book from the 8th grade curriculum because of swear words and depictions of nudity. Of course, the theme of the atrocities of the holocaust probably factored into the decision. Since I haven’t read “Maus,” I wonder which swear words are used. I must shamefully admit that my children have probably heard worse from their own mother’s mouth.
My mom was a big reader. She had book shelves everywhere, filled with hardcover books, only. She never read soft cover books. She liked the feel of the hard cover, substantial, formidable, weighted with words. I recall combing through her books when I was younger (probably 12 years old) and picking out one called “Fatal Vision” by Joe McGinnis. She also had a really enticing VC Andrews book called “Flowers in the Attic.” These were the first books I remember reading cover to cover. A lifelong obsession with Stephen King would follow, not because my mother loved his books, but precisely because she didn’t like Stephen King. It made me want to read his books even more. If asked today, who my favorite author is, I would say King without hesitation or fear of judgement. Is he on the same level as Shakespeare? Why, of course.
I am fascinated with themes of fear and bravery, good and evil. King showed me that good people can do bad things and heroes can be flawed.
King has only banned one of his own books from publication, “Rage,” which he wrote in 1977 and published under the pseudonym Richard Bachmann. The story was about a school shooter and told from his perspective. King was appalled when his book was noted to be a source of inspiration for at least 5 school shootings that occurred in the 80’s and 90’s. He would later write a book called “Guns” that was inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings with all proceeds from the sales going to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
I read to my children most every night. We have read so many books from “Harry Potter” to “Lord of the Rings” to “A Wrinkle in Time.” Right now, we are reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” one of my favorite books of all time. Interestingly enough, this book has been banned from 8th grade curriculums, too, because of the N word and depictions of rape. This will be the third time I’ve read this book. When I read out loud, I don’t say the N word. It is the most uncomfortable word I know, it feels wrong in my mouth. For all the words that are in the book, this word appears about 50 times.
When Scout asks her father Atticus about the N word, he replies, “Ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves,” he tells Scout. “It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves, when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.”
Harper Lee knew the power of the word and she understood the racial context that it was used in the south by white folks. She once wrote a letter to the local paper of a school board that banned her book. Here’s a copy of her short, but succinct letter. I absolutely chuckled at the end.
Editor The News Letter:
Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.
Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that “To Kill a Mockingbird” spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is “immoral” has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.
I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.
What we teach our children matters. The simplest lesson I know is that the world is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. Try to do good in everything that you do. Try to fight the good battles that lift people up. When you have a voice, use it to help others. You will be afraid, but you must concur that fear. Do not let it rule you. Do not let it silence you. Step into the fear. Own it. Read the books. Then let’s talk about it. I will not silence you.