A few years ago the United States Library of Congress created an exhibit titled “Books That Shaped America”. I was fascinated to see how many books I loved reading in high school made the list, but were also banned and objected to by many who found their words offensive and ideas threatening. My alltime favorite novel, Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls was banned by the U.S. Postal Service in 1940. Hemingway’s prose was the antifa weapon of the prewar era.Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction novel Stranger In A strange Land was challenged by numerous schools due to sexuality and anti-authority themes. I was a junior in high school when I read it, and at the time rumours abounded that rock star David Bowie would appear in a film inspired by the novel. Needless to say, I passed that book around discreetly among my best friends at Bishop Fenwick High School. Richard Wright’s Native Son inspired me to learn more about racism and classism. At least eight states in the USA banned it for “violent and sexually graphic” content but I think they were more afraid of the fact that Wright portrays the Communist Party of the United States in a positive light. Reality is tough to face, and reality is back in the depression the Communist Party in the United States was one of the few national organizations that wasn’t segregated and didn’t shy away from advocating for civil rights.
I grew up in a family of avid readers, and while there was from time to time discussion about my readiness for certain books there were no titles that I sought to read as a boy that my mom and older sister would keep me from reading. My father had dropped out of school when he was a 5th grader to support his family during the Great Depression. He loved Western Novels and read every book he could get his hands on. I loved history, politics, tales of human experience, and novels that transported me into another place or time. It was surprising to learn over time that schools and municipalities sometimes tried to prevent people from reading certain books.