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  • Ryanne Harper

Ryanne's Favorite Challenged Books

We've been celebrating banned books week all dang week. Lookie here, I am one hundred percent against banning/challenging books. Censorship is a slickery* slope I just don't want to go down. I have seen first hand how an idiot with an idea along with a mob mentality can totally ruin things for everyone. While in college, I worked at Books-A-Million. We had a customer who stirred up a little bit of trouble over the fact that we sold adult magazines. They're behind the customer service desk in a blue tote, if you're curious. Anyway, this customer ranted and raved and attempted to cause a big stink. Unsuccessful, he took his efforts to the store in Searcy. And it worked. He succeeded in having adult magazines removed from the store. Then he went after the self-help books that had anything to do with sex. And, again, it worked. With a band of followers behind him, he went after romance novels; then classics like The Scarlet Letter because Hester Prynne was adulterous. He succeeded. Eventually the store had nothing left except books this individual and his pals thought were wholesome and worthy. So the store closed. He single-handedly shut down a store and cost about fifteen people their jobs. That's what I mean when I say it's a slickery slope. It began with adult magazines and ended with people losing their jobs.

*I know slickery isn't a word, but I like and I refuse to stop using it.

In honor of Banned Books Week, here are five of my favorite:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

Challenged for: profanity, describing drug use, sexually explicit

This book. It's heavy. I remember exactly where I was when I read it. I lived in a rundown rent house with six friends, as you do. The heat was out and it was cold. So, I read the entire book while perched on the stovetop with the oven on. I was burrito wrapped in several blankets and proceeded to sob my face off. One of my roommates came home and, discovering what I was doing, pulled up a chair and also cried. At the time, I assumed she did this in solidarity, but it could have been the fact that I was occupying the only warm place in the house.

Catcher in the Rye, J.D Salinger

Challenged for: excessive vulgar language

I first read Catcher in eleventh grade. It was given to me, the whole class, actually, by our AP English teacher when he was told the book was banned and he needed to get rid of his old class set before the Superintendent visited the next day. So, he did just that. He handed out copies to his students and declared the next day would be a "free reading" day, meaning we were welcome to bring whatever we wanted and spend the class period reading. Acknowledging and appreciating his slight rebellion, the entire class was reading Catcher when the Principal and Superintendent came in. Our teacher explained we'd all chosen to bring that book and there was really nothing to be done about it. And nothing was done about it. It was a baller move and props to him. Ever since, Catcher and Holden have held a special place in my heart.

1984, George Orwell

Challenged for: being pro-Communist

I've read 1984 three times. The first time I didn't get it, I was too young. The second time it scared me. The third time, very recently, it felt all too real. In 1984, Orwell warns against censorship so it seems fitting that his book would be one of the most challenged of all time.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Challenged for: racial language and "making people uncomfortable"

Here's the thing, sometimes you will feel uncomfortable and that's totally okay. It's not a reason to remove a book from the library. I don't remember when I read Mockingbird for the first time. I just remember that the line "Miss Jean-Louise, stand up. Your father's passing" gets me every time. It's a wonderful book and, there are many who would disagree with me, so is Go Set A Watchman. Jessica and I love it so much we named our company after it. We also love wine, hence the tipsy.

The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

Challenged for: occult/Satanism and anti-family values

The hatred for HP runs deep. Again, I worked at a book store when these books were being released. I remember vividly the protesters standing outside with their signs, screaming their heads off at children who were trying to get to the doors so they could come in and get their copy. It's actually because of these protesters that I read Harry Potter in the first place. When an eight-year-old girl grabbed her copy of Goblet, sat down and immediately began reading, despite the adults around her screaming about witches, I thought there might just be something to these books. Also, the irony of adults encircling and screaming at children while pretending to be concerned about said children was not lost on me. The very next day I read the first HP book and I've been singing their praises ever since. Over the course of my time at the bookstore, we had several teenagers, old enough to drive themselves to the store, but still in school, who would come in to read HP in secret. The rebellious streak in me decided, rather than get on to them for reading our inventory and never buying anything, we'd keep copies behind the counter so the kids wouldn't lose their place. I legit felt like a member of Dumbledore's Army.

The point is, if you don't like something, you don't have to read it. I don't see value in James Patterson., so I don't read his books. It really is that simple. Rather than get up in arms about a book featuring two male penguins raising a baby penguin, try reading it with your kids and talking about it. Or, if you want to deprive them of And Tango Makes Three, that's totally fine, too. Your lose, though, that book is precious pants.

Interested in banned books? Check out this list of the most frequently challenged books.

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