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One book ban makes sense: A ban on banning

October 1, 2011
The Mining Journal

Banned Books Week ended Friday. I hope you celebrated by reading something subversive - "To Kill a Mockingbird," maybe, or "The Catcher in the Rye."

According to the American Library Association website, "Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment... 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 banning of books across the United States."

Google "banned books" and scan the list of titles previously or currently banned in United States schools or libraries. Rather than a list of brain-warping treatises, it reads like a list of classic literature.

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I've read my share of banned books, including the aforementioned pair. The only side effects I've noted are a greater respect for the written word, a deeper appreciation for justice and history, and a well exercised brain.

You've probably read a banned book or two yourself, even if you didn't know it. Ever read "Carrie" by Stephen King? "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker? Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"? Consider yourself a reader of the banned. If your kids have read any "Harry Potter" books or Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach," you're the proud parent of junior banned bookies.

Virtually every adolescent girl from the late 1970s on has read "Forever" by Judy Blume. The book earned banned status for its honest treatment of the sexual relationship between two intelligent, responsible high school seniors sharing first love.

My first question regarding the long, narrow-minded tradition of banning books is, "Says who?" Who among the ranks of my fellow flawed human beings believes they have such a finely tuned moral compass that they can determine what I or my children will read? Who decides that the crude but authentic language in "The Grapes of Wrath" negates its powerful message of poverty versus profit? Who has the arrogance to assume the rest of us are so weak-minded we must be sheltered from their definition of what's improper?

Ideas aren't dangerous. What's dangerous is narrowing one's view until you can't see beyond the end of your own opinion. If a person is confident in what they believe, why can't they grant others the right to think as they wish, even though their beliefs differ? Isn't that the kind of freedom we're supposed to take pride in as Americans?

We especially need real, challenging literature nowadays to lift us above the avalanche of pap labeled as entertainment. If that sounds pretentious, I have two words for you: "Jersey Shore." Anyone who watches that show should also spend another hour reading a well-written book just to cleanse their mental palate.

Even innocent, tuxedoed penguins are victims of this fear-based banning. "And Tango Makes Three," based on the true story of two male penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo who formed a couple and were given an egg to hatch, has been labeled a moral threat to young children.

Two male penguins lovingly raising a baby? Heavens, what will the polar bears think? But never mind the furry neighbors; apparently, small children must be shielded from all knowledge of same-sex relationships, including the web-footed and feathered variety.

Kind of makes you want to ban banning, doesn't it?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to "Life With a View," a collection of her Mining Journal columns, is available at area bookstores. Read her blog online at



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