Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “John Steinbeck”

Burn and Turn: Censored and Challenged Books/BB Week #1


What have To Kill A Mockingbird, The Awakening, Huckleberry Finn, and The Hunger Games all have in common?  Easy. Besides making the bestsellers list, they have also made the banned books list. And let’s pause this opening for a bit of clarification. Banned Book Week is actually misleading, since books aren’t technically banned anymore–they are challenged, since we all have, at least in the US of A, the ability to procure what we want to read.

Banned Book Week is the annual emphasis that occurs during the last week of September, and serves as a reminder how society, during given points and times in history, get tweaked about what is available to read.  However, it is not only in the United States that books have created ire in the powers of say so.  Read Tweak happens around the world.  For instance:

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:  Used to be banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. The censor General Ho Chien believed that attributing human language to animals was an insult to humans. He feared that the book would teach children to regard humans and animals on the same level, which would be “disastrous.”

Then again sometimes banning is not good enough–let’s just burn the bugger and totally purge society’s ability for intellectual discernment.  Burned books would include:

  • Ulysses, by James Joyce–Burned in the U.S. (1918)
  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John SteinbeckBurned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library (1939)
  • The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway–Burned in Nazi bonfires in Germany (1933)
  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut–Burned in Drake, ND (1973)

Although there haven’t been any recent burnings, Ray Bradbury (rest in peace, Ray, you are missed) foresaw a day when all books would be burned. Not because of poisoned opinion, offended sensibilities, or societal outrage–no, Ray thought books would be burned due to lack of interest.  Intellectual thought via the printed page would be overridden by the quest of Jello entertainment(that ubiquitous substance which has form but no true nutrition and is quite similar to most television programming). In the near future Bradbury believed it would be illegal to own or read books so the government created a mockery out the fireman and had him burn books instead of saving that which would burn.  The paradox is stunningly brilliant, which is why Bradbury and his insights will be missed.

The book I refer to is, of course, Fahrenheit 451. The delicious and sad irony is that F451 was censored for its language in order for school districts to allow it on reading lists.

This week I will be posting views, trivia, and insights about banning, censoring, and challenging intellectual matter, because it does matter.

Banned Book Week.  Read a book and challenge your brain.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#4: Required Reading for High School English


Having recently plunked out my series list caused me to wonder about creating other lists.  Yes, I am a confessed list maker.  I have Post-It squares tacked all over the place of To-Dos, Epiphanies, Story Starts, Poem Parts, and Lesson Plan Pundits.  The Cricket List will be an on-going project.  Today’s offering is #4: Required reading in high school English.  I encourage your suggestions:

The Cricket List:

1. Children’s authors and selected titles

2.  YA authors and selected titles

3.  Picture books

4.  Required reading in high school English:

  • The Outsiders(teens haven’t changed too much in the thirty years this has been out)
  • The Miracle Worker (Helen Keller is a hero favorite and goes a long way in learning about overcoming adversity)
  • Pride and Prejudice (all man/woman hate-at-first sight movies stem from this gem)
  • Sherlock Holmes (the original, to understand why Robert Downey and Jude Law’s version is pure entertainment)
  • Frankenstein (a riveting read and shows the fallacy of Hollywood’s meddling)
  • Jules Verne (original science fiction master storyteller)
  • Julius Caesar (politics gone wrong)
  • Hamlet (love-revenge-hate-murder-intrigue-dueling-witty wordplay–who could ask for more in a plot)
  • Taming of the Shrew (Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus four hundred years ago)
  • Othello (Shakespeare was ahead of his time with this tale)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a light-hearted romp which shows not all is tragedy on Shakespeare’s plate)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (timeless classic which showcases the South both in a positive and negative way)
  • The Once and Future King (or some version of King Arthur–I like John Steinbeck‘s version)
  • Stargirl (beautiful story of not conforming to peer pressure or the consequences when one does)
  • John Donne‘s Holy Sonnet X (Death Be Not Proud)
  • She Walks in Beauty (timeless appreciation of beauty)
  • Rime of the Ancient Mariner (To understand Pirates of the Caribbean better)
  • Beowulf (so you can boo/hiss at the animated version and hope it will be done correctly someday)
  • Canterbury Tales (when you rewatch A Knight’s Tale you will laugh at the inside jokes)
  • Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, of course)
  • Mark Twain (American Lit wouldn’t be the same without him)
  • The Odyssey (understanding the epicness of heroes and their journey)
  • Romeo and Juliet (umm, how could one not read R&J?)

5.  Beach Reads

6.  Must reads

7. Saw the movie, then read the book

8.  Read the book, wish it were a movie

9. Poems to know and grow on

10. GoodRead gotta-get-to-someday reads

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