Sometime during my years in high school, I read “1984” and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. They were not assigned class readings, just my own selection from the library and I found them fascinating, thought-provoking classics that influenced my thinking for the rest of my life.
Another author I discovered about the same time was Ray Bradbury. I devoured as many of his works that I could get my hands on – “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “Dandelion Wine,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and many others.
Considering that Mr. Bradbury wrote more than three dozen books and hundreds of short stories, as well as writing for stage, movies and television, I did the best I could but barely made a dent in his collection of glorious stories.
But one book which really got me thinking critically was the novel that’s considered a masterwork, “Fahrenheit 451.” It depicts a dystopian world in which books are burned and thoughts are controlled.
That concept horrified me then and it still does; but the idea of “book burning” to control ideas is not new – and it continues to this day.
Through the centuries, writers have been censored because some individuals, groups, governments and even churches have disagreed with what was written.
I have a wonderful – and shocking – book on the subject: “120 Banned Books – Censorship Histories of World Literature” by Karolides, Bald and Sova. The authors look at books suppressed for a variety of reasons: Political, religious, sexual and social. There are many that would surprise you; for example, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
And yes, “Fahrenheit 451,” “Animal Farm,” and “1984” are on the list. There are many others you would never think would cause a problem; but they have, for a variety of reasons.
It’s happening again, right now, and it concerns books by an author who has thrilled readers (adults and children) for years because she wrote the stories of her life as she and her family lived it.
The author in question is Laura Ingalls Wilder and she wrote a series of nine books about the lives of her family on the American prairie in the 1870’s – the “Little House on the Prairie” books. She wrote of the joys and pains, the work and the pleasures, the problems faced and how they were dealt with.
She just, as we say today, “told it like it was.” It was different than our lives today, but she wrote about what life was really like for early settlers in the American West. She lived it and wrote of it, the books published between 1932 and 1943.
The series of books was an enormous success – so much so that the American Library Association honored Wilder for her work. They established an award named for her that honors an author or illustrator whose work made a “substantial and lasting contribution to the literature for children.”
That was in 1954 – but now the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” is no more. Well, the award is there, but her name is gone because the group voted 100 per cent to drop her name. They said her writings did not represent the sentiment of the organization.
They didn’t deny that Wilder’s works continue to be read and “hold a significant place in the history of children’s literature,” but the group said it was concerned that the “books reflect dated cultural attitudes toward indigenous people and people of color.”
Gee, all of sudden those self-righteous hypocrites at the Library Association found some morality and decided that Wilder – writing about what life was really like in those days – had to be censored and demeaned.
Yes, life was tough. Yes, Indians were a problem for the settlers. Yes, Indians and blacks were often spoken of in a derogatory fashion. That’s the way it was. Pretending otherwise is a betrayal of our children by not letting them know what life was really like.
To judge Wilder’s family by today’s politically correct standards is not only insulting to her and her family, but also to readers. The Weekly Standard Scrapbook quotes the Library Association as saying they recognize the author’s legacy is complex and Wilder’s work is not universally “embraced.”
Wow – what author IS universally embraced? Are we only supposed to honor books that “everyone” likes? That, in itself, is impossible and insulting.
Judging by the volume I mentioned earlier, “120 Banned Books,” those books are an array of some of the most important and highly acclaimed books ever published, yet they were banned at some point.
Consider that the Harry Potter books set worldwide publishing records, yet the American Library Association reports they topped the list of titles targeted for censorship. Also targeted are “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Canterbury Tales,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Sophie’s Choice,” among so many others.
So whether it’s organizations such as the American Library Association, or school districts, or churches, or politically oriented clubs or just groups of individuals angry about something in a book they don’t agree with – censorship continues. Sometimes those efforts are successful and sometimes not, but the bottom line for all of us is “Be aware” of what’s going on and don’t allow small minds to attempt to change history and stifle speech and ideas.
Mind control is a dangerous thing, no matter who does it.