Today marks the beginning of Banned Books Week, an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) to highlight the censorship of books current, recent and past. Notable titles that have been banned or challenged include: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Captain Underpants” (you know you’ve read it!) and “The Kite Runner.” Reasons for these challenges range from offensive language to mentions of drugs (ah!), booze (wha?!), or sex (blaspheme!).
In honor of this very important awareness campaign, your friends here at Prichard Communications encourage you to READ A BANNED BOOK this week! To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of our favorite banned books.
David Backes, account manager
My favorite banned book, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, played a key role in leading me down the path that found me working at Prichard Communications, focusing on communications for foundations and nonprofits. I first read it as a senior in high school, and it really opened my eyes for the first time to things that still interest me today: inequality and social disparities. After high school I went on to major in sociology before working in the marketing world for a few years. But my nagging desire to work on projects that promote the greater good, which began way back in high school English class, led me to Prichard Communications. And to think, school board members in North Carolina voted to ban Invisible Man because it had “no literary value.” Sigh.
Jennie Day-Burget, account director
“Wide Sargasso Sea,” by Jean Rhys is my favorite banned book because it takes my all-time favorite book (banned or not), “Jane Eyre,” and dumps it upside down. The plot–a prequel to “Jane Eyre” told from the point of view of the “madwoman” in the attic–is creative and provocative. It reminds the reader of the importance of critical thinking. Things are not always as they seem. A similar novel I love, Alice Randall’s, “The Wind Done Gone,” takes a very similar approach to storytelling, re-imagining “Gone with the Wind” from the point of view of the slaves. Notably, this book was temporarily blocked from publication when the writer was accused of copyright infringement. Like “Wide Sargasso Sea,” it’s worth exploring if you want to challenge your own notions about classic plot lines and preconceived notions.
Jessica Williams, sales and marketing director, Mac’s List
My favorite banned book is the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, by Phillip Pullman. Pullman’s fantasy world comments on religion, life, death and spirit. I think it’s fascinating. I could read it a dozen times and never get bored! In fact, author Phillip Pullman is quite a troublemaker among would-be censors in the US–he ranked second on the ALA’s list of banned or challenged books in 2008!
Brooke Preston, acting account executive
“Anastasia Again,” Lois Lowry: The Anastasia series perfectly illustrates the broad range of thoughtful, non-obscene adolescent fiction too often scorned in the name of protecting our children from something vague and terrible. I devoured these books as a pre-teen, happy to find so much of myself in Anastasia Krupnik–luckily, I managed to emerge unscathed from the passing references to beer and a Playboy centerfold that often draw ire from parents’ groups. In fact, I can’t recall these references at all, though the over-arching themes did stay with me. Namely, that it’s okay to be a bookworm like Anastasia, it’s okay to ask lots of questions, and–as this book’s plot ironically reveals–preconceived notions usually turn out to be wrong. Honorable mention: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee. One of the best books ever written. We could all take a page from the willingness to stand for what’s right like Atticus Finch. Banned book? More like required reading!
Mac Prichard, president
“All the King’s Men,” Robert Penn Warren: Almost 70 years after its publication, this frequently banned or challenged book remains one of the best novels about modern American politics. Warren, a poet and writer from Louisiana, tells the story of Willie Stark, an idealistic small town lawyer in the Deep South who becomes a powerful and corrupt governor during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Warren paints a vivid and often unflattering picture of electoral and legislative deal-making that rang true for me as a former aide to state and local elected officials. And one of the book’s central themes — each of us has to pick a side and take a stand no matter how flawed our choices may be — continues to make many readers uncomfortable.
What are your favorite banned books? Share with us in the comments section.
>>Learn more on the ALA’s “Banned and Challenged Books” website: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/