The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Call of the Wild by Jack London
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
oh, and The Bible
Any guesses? That's right. All of these books have been banned at one time or another. I know, there are a lot more books that have been banned than these. These are ones that I've read personally and feel have something valuable to offer to the human race.
Did you know about Banned Books Week? It starts on September 25th. It's the only national celebration of the freedom to read. Every year, people come out of the woodwork to challenge and ban books. (I think it coincides with the advent of a new school year and optional or required reading lists being shown to parents.) Anyway, Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak is being challenged again. Read here for Laurie's post on her blog regarding attacks on Speak. I agree with her. 100%. Rape isn't porn. And as my husband pointed out, when it becomes seen as porn, it's that much harder for victims to come forward and begin to heal.
I believe that Speak is a very important book. It discusses the topic of rape. It is not graphic. It is difficult, powerful, uncomfortable. But worthy of attention. I would hand Speak to anyone having gone through a similar experience. It emphasizes the importance of TALKING about it. I don't mind people expressing their opinions. We do live in a free country after all, and that is what Banned Book Week is all about. But I do believe that people will read his article and not give Speak a chance, thus cheating themselves or someone they know out of learning something valuable.
I don't believe every book is for every reader. If parents are concerned about what their children read, then they should talk with their children. Open a dialogue. Decide together what it appropriate for that particular child. That's what my eleven-year old and I did when she wanted to read Twilight. I feel better knowing that she understands my objections to specifics books for her. She knows that I care about what she puts in her head. We talk about what books mean, how they can change you, how powerful literature is.
Not every book is for every reader. But for books like Speak, there is someone out there, who thinks that no one would understand, that they are to blame, that they are alone in their experience, that they just can't talk about it. And when they find that important book, the one that is uncomfortable, disturbing or inappropriate for other readers, it can help set them on the path to healing.
My personal experience with Speak: I wish I would have been able to read it sixteen years ago. The title isn't just a hint, a suggestion or a request. It's an imperative. Communicate. Open your mouth. Be empowered. Educate yourself and others.