The Literary Rants: Classic Novels Get Banned and Unbanned
The novels To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain just got banned from a public school library again a couple weeks ago. I won’t name the school district which banned the books because I don’t want to pile on. To be fair, the books got unbanned a few days later.
It has to be embarrassing to be the school district that still bans To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s not like these books are gathering dust anywhere. Everybody knows about the content of these novels, and they’re still cherished American classics.
Even so, this won’t be the last time these novels get banned. I’m not sure when Huck Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird are going to get banned by another school district, but it’s probably going to happen soon.
It was offensive language (the N-word) that got these books taken off the library shelves. I understand, no school wants to get bad publicity for giving students books with N-words in it. In today’s environment, if the wrong person writes or says the N-word, that person gets fired.
It’s tough to be in the crossfire between sensitivity and mockery today. If you’re seen as insensitive and ignore the complaint about N-words in books, you could get fired (or even worse, be forced to attend seminars about sensitivity), but if you respond to the complaint then you can get mocked for being stupid enough to ban To Kill a Mockingbird. Most people need a paycheck, so they choose to get laughed at rather than get fired.
Sometimes a lack of common sense causes problems where none should exist. In this case, the temporary ban was caused by a policy that said one complaint about a book was enough to warrant removal and an investigation. Maybe this policy is needed for some of today’s YA fiction, but every librarian should know about To Kill a Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Any librarian should greet a complaint about one of these books with an eye roll and an insincere, “We’ll look into it.”
A possible solution would be to publish a version of these classic novels without the N-word. In the case of To Kill a Mockingbird, you’d have to clear it with the estate (and the estate probably wouldn’t agree), but Huckleberry Finn is public domain, so we can do what we want and Mark Twain (and any of his money-grubbing relatives) can’t do a thing about it.
All a publisher has to do is replace the N-word with the phrase “heckuva guy,” and the sensitive reader would no longer be offended. Nobody gets offended by somebody who’s a “heckuva guy.” And even though using “heckuva guy” instead of the N-word changes the meaning of the novels a little bit, it might be worth it if more readers become more comfortable with these classics.
If publishers do this, school libraries all over the United States could have sanitized copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to entertain and enlighten even the most sensitive of readers and their parents.
I’m not a fan of banning books, but if you do, at least pick something original. Here are a few books that I think should get banned. I’m not saying these books absolutely should get banned. I just mean that sometimes on a slow news day you might want to ban a few books just to get the juices flowing, so if you do, here are a few books that haven’t been banned before (or at least haven’t made the news for getting banned).
Despite lots of profanity, my ebook has never been banned from a school library.