Maybe I should save this post for Banned Books Week, but it crossed my mind the other night-and I needed a post (yep, it's late).
I don't believe in banning books, but I believe parents need to be part of the discussion with controversial books. Read them with your kids and discuss. The world is more scary than any book.
Most times I don't understand why some books are banned. Take for instance the perennially banned book, Huckleberry Finn. It isn't among my faves, but not because of its use of that word- nigger. I hate that word and personally believe it should be eliminated from the English language, but I don't think that should doom this book. The word was commonly used then. Yes, it's a bad word, but scrapping a literary treasure isn't the answer. Reading the book, understanding the context, and discussing why the book is still relevant is the answer. Huckleberry Finn is a not a reflection of a perfect world- show me a book that is. No one disagrees that some of the language and attitudes are racist and I don't believe that is the point. Nor is the book a simple adventure story. It goes deeper than that.
The Twain Library in Virginia acknowledges that "it was condemned by many reviewers in MT's time as coarse and by many commentators in our time as racist." That, I don't believe, has changed. However, The Atlanta Constitution, in May, 1886, noted that Huckleberry Finn "...presents an almost artistically perfect picture of the life and character in the southwest, and it will be equally valuable to the historian and to the student of sociology. Its humor, which is genuine and never-failing, is relieved by little pathetic touches here and there that vouch for its literary value."
There are further reviews on the Twain Library website both in support and condemnation of Twain's novel. You can read them here: http://twain.lib.virginia.edu/huckfinn/huchompg.html.
My point is this; every art has its critics and its admirers. Shoving aside, hiding, or banning a work does not make it go away. If anything, it has the opposite effect; it brings the piece to light. Although that attention may be short lived, I believe it's best to make the book widely available. Once you open its covers to the words and meanings inside, open your mind past narrow criticisms.