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Sarah Maxwell

I read banned books

This week is a week to honor the literary greats. The authors who challenged our minds and pushed the boundaries of many. Their works may be centuries of years old, but their messages are timeless and classic. Yet these books are under attack on many different fronts. This week is Banned Books Week.

Many of the books I have read come from the top banned and challenged books list. I see this list as sort of a challenge. If someone is going to take the time to complain about its content and plot lines, then I am going to take the time to read it and support the author.

From the third grade through my senior year in high school, I devoured “Harry Potter.” My books are so worn. You can just plop any of them down, and they will lay flat. Those books are loved. What girl wouldn’t love a strong female character who is both smart and brave. Hermione is a wonderful role model. Better than the tongue-wagging, drug-doping celebrities we have today. Those who oppose it say it’s anti-family, endorses the occult and Satanism, and is violent. When I look at the plot, I see mystery, room for growth and understanding, and it shows that a family doesn’t have to be the typical nuclear family.

In middle school, I read the “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. They were my mom’s from when she was in college. These books are battered. The pages are yellow. The spines look like they could give out at any moment. In 2001, at the same time as I was following Frodo and his band through Middle Earth to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, the books were being burned (along with other Tolkien novels) in Alamagordo, N.M., outside Christ Community Church because they were viewed as Satanic. When in my reality, they are teaching about quests, goals, leadership and struggle. The truth behind Frodo’s journey is you can never return to your previous self. Our lives always change with our journey.

I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee in my freshman honors English class. We discussed the intense racism in the South during the time period. We dived into why Aticus Finch would take such a lost cause of a case. And we learned about true courage and standing up for your beliefs in the greater good. It was one of the books I later purchased. Yet “Mockingbird” is one of the most challenged books. Those who challenge the book cite its offensive language, rampant racism, the use of the word “nigger” and its adult themes. But to them I say, you can’t write a novel about Alabama during the Great Depression without addressing racism. It existed. It happened.

In college, I read John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” It’s another book I decided to keep instead of selling it back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. The novella showcases the bond between two men. One is the protector, the other the protectee. It’s another story that takes place during the Great Depression and addresses racial issues, metal health and the deeper meaning of family. It has been banned and challenged multiple times for its “blasphemous” language, profanity, vulgarity, racial slurs and because it takes God’s name in vain 15 times.

I’ve read numerous other banned and challenged books, and I grew up fine. I read them at an age appropriate time when I could understand the plot lines and meanings. I didn’t read “1984” when I was 11; I read it when I was 20.

We all have the right to read what we want. If you aren’t a fan of a book, don’t try to restrict my access. You don’t have to read it. We have the freedom to choose. Exercise it.

As for me, I’m going to keep my “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Jungle,” “In Cold Blood,” “The Catcher in the Rye” and of course “Harry Potter.”

BCR Copy Editor Sarah Maxwell can be reached at smaxwell@bcrnews.com.

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