Every September at the Library we create “Banned Books Week” displays and host a book discussion to mark the American Library Association’s annual commemoration of all the books that have ever been removed from library shelves and classrooms. The book discussion held tonight at the Library centered around The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, the classic yet controversial book about migrant farmers in the 1930s.
The discussion, as always, generated lively discussion, which we invite you to contribute to in the comments. The displays, as always, are eliciting the same questions from our visitors:
“People don’t ban books anymore do they?”
“Is the library banning these books?”
“Why would someone ban these books?”
Yes, they do. And they still burn them too.
Absolutely not! Though, sadly, there are some libraries that still do.
And – well – that last one is complicated.
Though it is becoming more rare for a book to be outright “banned” today in this country, books - including classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well as new favorites like The Hunger Games - are being challenged, censored and removed from library shelves and school curricula all the time. And if you think our part of the country is too evolved for that take a look at this map.
Often censorship requests come from concerned parents, administrators, and town officials who believe literature will tarnish young and impressionable minds with profanity, sexuality, racism, and taboo or uncomfortable topics. Unfortunately, most of the books that touch people and instill in them a deep and lasting love of literature deal with just these things.
It saddens me to know that some profanity, sexual themes, and a not-so-holy preacher have prevented people from reading a life-changing book like The Grapes of Wrath, perhaps the most profound portrayal of the Dust Bowl ever written. Of course at the heart of most censorship is that fact that gritty representations of life, like that of the Joad family, remind people of the harsh reality that humanity’s past and present are flawed; or, as Oscar Wilde put it, “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.”
Tell us what you think about The Grapes of Wrath below.
Written by Rebecca Harlow, Head of Reference and Adult Services.