Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Banned Books Week: Classics-The Catcher in the Rye


I had fully intended to post something every day this week for Banned Books Week and I did not plan on posting so late. However, I didn't anticipate work being the pickle it is this week so my daytime posting has not quite worked out. Anyhoo, better late than never, right?

So, for the few posts I'll be doing, I wanted to focus on banned/challenged classics that I have read. I want to list some of the reasons that they have been banned/challenged (according to ala.org) and perhaps respond to some of those reasons with my feelings. First, though, a little definition about Banned Books Week from the ALA site.                

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language. The following were the top three reasons cited for challenging materials as reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom:

  1. the material was considered to be "sexually explicit"
  2. the material contained "offensive language"
  3. the materials was "unsuited to any age group"

Although this is a commendable motivation, Free Access to Libraries for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA's basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” Censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

Today's featured book is one that I found I didn't much care for in the grand scheme of things (my review). Please don't hate on me. That being said, I simply do not agree with its being banned or challenged. My commentary is in red.


The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Since its publication, this title has been a favorite target of censors.

  • In 1960, a teacher in Tulsa, OK was fired for assigning the book to an eleventh grade English class. The teacher appealed and was reinstated by the school board, but the book was removed from use in the school. 
  • In 1963, a delegation of parents of high school students in Columbus, OH, asked the school board to ban the novel for being "anti-white" and "obscene." The school board refused the request. Did I read the same book? I don't remember it being particularly obscene and I definitely do not think it was anti-white. What exactly does that mean?   
  • Removed from the Selinsgrove, PA suggested reading list (1975). Based on parents' objections to the language and content of the book, the school board voted 5-4 to ban the book. The book was later reinstated in the curriculum when the board learned that the vote was illegal because they needed a two-thirds vote for removal of the text.
  • Challenged as an assignment in an American literature class in Pittsgrove, NJ (1977). After months of controversy, the board ruled that the novel could be read in the Advanced Placement class, but they gave parents the right to decide whether or not their children would read it.
  • Removed from the Issaquah, WA optional High School reading list (1978).
  • Removed from the required reading list in Middleville, MI (1979).
  • Removed from the Jackson Milton school libraries in North Jackson, OH (1980).
  • Removed from two Anniston, AL High school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restrictive basis.
  • Removed from the school libraries in Morris, Manitoba (1982) along with two other books because they violate the committee's guidelines covering "excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult." Occult? What? 
  • Challenged at the Libby, MT High School (1983) due to the "book's contents."
  • Banned from English classes at the Freeport High School in De Funiak Springs, FL (1985) because it is "unacceptable" and "obscene."
  • Removed from the required reading list of a Medicine Bow, WY Senior High School English class (1986) because of sexual references and profanity in the book.
  • Banned from a required sophomore English reading list at the Napoleon, ND High School (1987) after parents and the local Knights of Columbus chapter complained about its profanity and sexual references.
  • Challenged at the Linton-Stockton, IN High School (1988) because the book is "blasphemous and undermines morality."
  • Banned from the classrooms in Boron, CA High School (1989) because the book contains profanity. Challenged at the Grayslake, IL Community High School (1991).
  • Challenged at the Jamaica High School in Sidell, IL (1992) because the book contains profanities and depicts premarital sex, alcohol abuse, and prostitution.
  • Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) and Duval County, FL public school libraries (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled.
  • Challenged at the Cumberland Valley High School in Carlisle, PA (1992) because of a parent's objections that it contains profanity and is immoral.
  • Challenged, but retained, at the New Richmond, WI High School (1994) for use in some English classes.
  • Challenged as required reading in the Corona Norco, CA Unified School District (1993) because it is "centered around negative activity." The book was retained and teachers selected alternatives if students object to Salinger's novel.
  • Challenged as mandatory reading in the Goffstown, NH schools (1994) because of the vulgar words used and the sexual exploits experienced in the book.
  • Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, FL (1995).
  • Challenged at the Oxford Hills High School in Paris, ME (1996). A parent objected to the use of the 'F' word.
  • Challenged, but retained, at the Glynn Academy High School in Brunswick, GA (1997). A student objected to the novel's profanity and sexual references.
  • Removed because of profanity and sexual situations from the required reading curriculum of the Marysville, CA Joint Unified School District (1997). The school superintendent removed it to get it "out of the way so that we didn't have that polarization over a book." Um, okay...it's not polarizing to try to ban/remove a book? Makes sense (no). =O/
  • Challenged, but retained on the shelves of Limestone County, AL school district (2000) despite objections about the book's foul language.
  • Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, GA (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was part of an Advanced Placement English class.
  • Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it "is a filthy, filthy book." Great reasoning...good with the specificity here. 
  • Challenged by a Glynn County, GA (2001) school board member because of profanity. The novel was retained.
  • Challenged in the Big Sky High School in Missoula, MT (2009).
  • Challenged, but retained, in the Martin County, Fla. School District (2010) despite a parent’s concern about inappropriate language.
  • Challenged, but retained as an assigned reading in the Noble High School in North Berwick, Maine (2004). Teachers will provide more information to parents about why certain books are studied. 

Sources:  
ala.org 
Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom (as reported at the ALA website)

What are your views on the challenges/banning of this book? Have you read it? What did you think?

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2 comments:

I apologize for word verification, but I turned it off and had close to 50 spam comments within 12 hours (nobody has time for that) so I had to turn it back on. Sorry!

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  1. Personally I loved Catcher in the Rye, although it was hard to get into at first. I know many don't care for it though. I know the language gets it banned quite a bit.

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  2. I was not a fan of this book when I read it in college but some of these reasons for banning are just funny.

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