Banned Book Week: To Kill a Mockingbird

All this week, the Leaguers are going to be celebrating banned books--not celebrating that books are banned, but celebrating reading banned books.

A little background: Banned Book Week is organized by ALA, and according to them:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week 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.

There's been a lot of controversy recently over banned books--spurring several book bloggers to have challenges to read a banned book, and new author Miriam Forster to create a Read a Banned Book website here, which includes essays by authors on the topic. And here at the League, we're going to celebrate by highlighting some of our favorite banned books this week.

I'm starting off with a classic:

This novel--the first and only one from Harper Lee--describes an unfair trial where a man is accused of a crime that he didn't commit based solely on his race. It's about a lot of other things, too--growing up, accepting others, not judging a book by its cover, learning about death and honor and pain.

It's a masterpiece.

And it's been banned in schools across the country.

Why? Language--there's a fair amount of use of the "n-word" (although this is coming from the racist accusers, not from the more civilized and fair people, drawing a contrast between ignorant hate and judicious citizens). The trial is based on rape, although rape isn't seen (and didn't actually happen).

But you know what? None of that is a reason for the book to be banned. Those are just excuses not reasons. The reason for the book to be banned is quite simply because some people didn't like it, and felt that should mean no one should read it.

Now, it may seem like this is an odd choice of a banned book for a dystopian/sci fi/spec fic nerd. But, you're forgetting about:

Pleasantville is an odd little movie. Two teens, brother and sister, get sucked into the fictional TV show Pleasantville, and old black and white classic where everything is--always--pleasant. But then things start to change...some of the people are colored.

Now, the show makes a play on black and white vs. color TV, but the implication is the same--you can see that as the black and white residents of Pleasantville start hanging "No Coloreds" signs up in their shop windows. And there's a trial, much like the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the "coloreds" are forced to watch from the balcony while the black and whites get to sit on the ground.

In the movie, the way the black and white people become colored is by experiencing new things. It can be a sexual awakening, or standing up for what you believe in, or reaching for a dream, or discovering art. It comes from longing--longing for something beyond the expected norm, even if it isn't pleasant.

And, in the end, that's what Banned Book Week is about. There are books I don't like that have been banned--but I don't think they should be banned, nevertheless. I'm not Muslim, but I don't think the Qur'ran should be burned. I don't approve of hate, but I'm also not going to burn Thomas Dixon's The Clansman.

My attitude on Banned Books can be summed up best by Voltaire's words:
I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
In Pleasantville, the solution to prevent more "coloreds" is to take away the things that cause them to think outside the box--including books. In To Kill a Mockingbird, it is the ignorant that are the ones most filled with hate.

And that's a lesson for anyone, living in Pleasantville, the American South, Tatooine, Mars, or anywhere else.


Jemi Fraser said...

I love To Kill a Mockingbird! I first read it in high school and I was blown away by everything inside it - so many messages, such vivid characters. It's an amazing book.

Susanne Winnacker said...

Great post. I hate book banning. Voltaire's words describe exactly what I feel.

Angie Smibert said...

To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite book and movie.

Unknown said...

Agree with everything in this post, particularly the quote by Voltaire as that is exactly how I feel.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Excellent post.

To Kill A Mockingbird is an incredible book and belongs in any high school curriculum.

Lisa Galek said...

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. I could never really understand why people wanted to ban it just because of the racist language. They do realize the book is opposed to racism, right?

Krispy said...

Great post, and I love the comparison. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and it has such important, enduring themes. I hate how common reasons for banning books are based on things that seem totally BESIDES the POINT the book is trying to make.

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