I have decided to do something crazy. Because I am crazy. For 2014, I have decided to read – and blog about – the ALA’s list of banned and challenged classics. This list is actually based off the Radcliffe’s Rival 100 Best Novels list. And of those top 100, 46 of them are frequently banned and challenged.
I love banned books. I find the concept of banning and challenging books fascinating and strange. I’ve read books that I did not like. I’ve read books that had drained my mind grapes dry. But after reading them I didn’t think, “You know what? Because I don’t agree with the message of this book, I am going to make sure nobody else can ever read it.” Because if I did, The Devil Wears Prada and Frankenstein would cease to exist.
If anyone is involved in YA book news, in 2013 Rainbow Rowell, the author of the two New York Times best-sellers Eleanor & Park and Fangirl was uninvited to a Minnesota school because parents challenged the subject matter in Eleanor & Park. If you don’t know what it’s about, here is how Rowell summarized it:
Eleanor & Park is set in 1986. It’s about two 16-year-olds who fall in love on a school bus. The story is told from both of their points of view. Eleanor, a chubby redhead, is the new kid at school, and she’s facing some pretty intense bullying. Also, she has a terrible, abusive stepdad, who makes life at home miserable. Park’s home life is pretty good – his parents love him and each other – but he’s one of the only Asian kids at school, and he listens to bands no one has heard of, and he feels like a misfit, even inside his own house.
So Eleanor and Park fall in love. Unexpectedly. And intensely. And they both feel saved by that love.
The parents’ challenging of the book sparked large debate in the YA fiction realm; BookRiot wrote an excellent piece about why banning books like Eleanor & Park is bad for YA fiction.
But I digress. My Banned Books Challenge has actually already began. Just last week, I finished reading George Orwell’s classic – and number 9 on the list – 1984. So I am already on the right track, and you should expect a blog post about it later this or next week. And although there are some books on this list that I have already read, I am going to read them again. All 46 will (hopefully) be read by the end of 2014. I think the best thing for me to do in continuing this challenge is to read the books in numerical order on the list, which leaves me beginning (and re-enjoying) this challenge with the American classic, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
If anyone wants to join in, I am going to add a Banned Books Challenge tab, so you can easily check out the list, and see my progress.