Forum Friday: What Banned Books Have You Read?

This Friday, my fellow readers, writers, and bloggers, let’s get our hands dirty.

Let’s talk contraband.

This week (September 30 to October 6) is Banned Books Week in the United States. For those of you unfamiliar with it, this is an annual event among the national book community that celebrates the ability to read freely and aims to fight censorship by drawing attention to banned and challenged titles.

My Forum Friday question for you, then, is this: what controversial titles have you read? (And which did you like best? Which are you hoping to read next?)

If you need some ideas check out the following resources:

  1. The ten most challenged titles of 2011, according to bannedbooksweek.org
  2. The 100 most frequently challenged books (1990-1999), as listed by the American Library Association
  3. The 100 most banned and challenged books (2000-2009), again by the American Library Association

Your favorite contraband might be popular titles– children’s, young adult, or adult fiction, anything is game!– like these, which are banned novels I have read:

  • The Hunger Games
  • To Kill a Mocking Bird
  • Brave New World
  • Harry Potter (series)
  • Catcher in the Rye
  • Killing Mr. Griffin
  • Bless Me, Ultima
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • The Kite Runner
  • Speak
  • Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Julie of the Wolves
  • Goosebumps (series)
  • The Outsiders
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • Lord of the Flies

And finally, the one that made me say “WHAT?”, #87:

  • Where’s Waldo?

(I kid you not.)

Of those– oh, how could I choose a favorite?– I grew up on Julie of the Wolves, and then the entire Harry Potter series; but Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Flowers for Algernon and Catcher in the Rye are all literary gems and have haunted and stayed with me for many years (except in the case of Brave New World, which I am actually reading for the first time right now). I love them all.

One banned title that I really want to read (but I don’t even think has been released in the US– I read about it in The Guardian) is Julian Assange’s unauthorized autobiography.

How about you?

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If I am just a bag of meat, sitting on a rock in outer space…

I recently came across this quote on The Oatmeal in regards to religion:

Does [your religion] help you cope with the fact that you are a bag of meat sitting on a rock in outer space and that someday you will DIE and you are completely powerless, helpless, and insignificant in the wake of this beautiful cosmic shitstorm we call existence?

Me: No! Because I don’t have a religion! (You will not hear me speak much of religion; in short I am open-minded, but believe in logic and reason first.)

AND YET…

Bizarrely, I did take solace in the fact that I AM only a bag of meat on a rock in the vast expanse of all known universes here, now, and ever, and that one day I will return to the earth as nothing more than dirt in the wind, or a miniscule grain of sand.

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Incidentally, here is what sand looks like under 250x magnification.

That makes all of our problems seem insignificant too, doesn’t it? If all my life and experiences– the good and the bad, the love and the loathing, the pleasures, the worries, the joys and the pains– will all one day fit a hundred times over into the crevice of somebody’s left shoe, or in the space between their toes, why should I let any one pea-sized, fleeting problem command any semblance of significance over me?

So I am lost and lacking direction. Only until I find my way.

I’m not yet published. But I will be.

Today my body aches. Tomorrow it shall be mended.

I have no cherished love. But I shall love again.

This, that, and all the bricks I bear on my back are heavy. But soon they shall be gone.

Everything in life is for now, for now, for now; tomorrow, we are gone.

I signed up for a French class!

Good-bye, you namby-pamby, half-assed studies!

Farewell, ye sporadic notes and vocab lists!

Adieu, Monsieur All-I-Know-Is-Present-Tense, And-Even-Then-Only-Seven-Verbs!

Hellooooooo structure, you beautiful fox, you.

Thank you, thank you. Merci, if you will.

So, I just signed up for my first ever French class.

To most people, this is probably not the most exciting news. In fact, most people would probably equate “I just signed up for a class” with “Good-bye, free time,” “#hasnosociallife,” or “Why is my checking account two-hundred bucks lighter?” But for me French 101 means direction, growth, and leads. French 101 means change. For all of my uncertainties in life right now– where I’m going, what I’m doing, how to progress, how to best pursue writing, and whether my novel-in-progress will hold its own or pancake– I am certain, for once, that this is what I need to be doing.

Some of the reasons I look forward to it:

  1. It will be my first experience as a student again since I taught English in Japan. I will definitely appreciate the structure and work the teacher puts into the course, and I know I will make the most of it.
  2. The class is downtown, which means I get to go into the city more and see and do loads of trendy, hipster, Portlandian things!
  3. I get to meet new people! Yay!
  4. Some of those people will probably want to practice French with me! Yay!
  5. Homework and tests mean I will actually be accountable for learning. Yay!

Yowza. Never thought I’d see the day I was excited for homework or tests. Or being accountable, for that matter. I remember once, in high school, my best friend and I were having a contest. The contest was to see who could say “I’m responsible,” and go the longest without cracking up.

The times, they are a-changin’.

P.S. A brief writing-related note: today, for the first time since I set my 1,000 words-a-day goal, I actually made it. And that is NOT counting this incredibly rambly, un-edited blog post. Am I not fantastic???