Monday, September 22, 2008

Banned Books Week ~ September 27 through October 4

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

During the Great Depression, George Milton and Lennie Small arrive at a ranch near Soledad southeast of Salinas, California. George is an intelligent and cynical man, and Lennie is a large man with limited mental abilities. They are migrant field workers who want to "work up a stake" in order to settle down on their own piece of land. Lennie's part of the dream, which he never tires of hearing George describe, is merely to tend to (and touch) soft rabbits on the farm. In the beginning George protects Lennie by telling him that if he (Lennie) gets in trouble George won't let him "tend them rabbits." They have fled a previous job in Weed where they were run out of town after Lennie's love of stroking soft things resulted in an accusation of attempted rape when he touched a young woman's dress. In a textbook example of foreshadowing, Lennie kills his pet mouse and a puppy by stroking them too roughly.

I chose to tell you about this book because I learned the other day that it was challenged in my town while I lived here. The ALA lists it as one of the most challenged books of the twentieth century:
Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1989) because "Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude." In addition, "he was very questionable as to his patriotism."

My first reaction was that, instead of banning the book, those folks should have wanted to ban John Steinbeck from Chattanooga. Their reasoning was ridiculous. But my town was neither the first nor the last to ban or challenge Of Mice and Men. It was banned in Ireland (1953) and challenged in the Normal, Illinois Community High Schools (2003). To see the 50-year-long list of places that opposed Of Mice and Men between 1953 to 2003, read the ALA list.

I suggest you get a copy of this 107-page novella and read it next week during Banned Books Week (September 27 through October 4). If this book doesn't pique your interest, there's a long list on that ALA page.:

The Great Gatsby ~ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye ~ by J. D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath ~ by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird ~ by Harper Lee
The Color Purple ~ by Alice Walker
Ulysses ~ by James Joyce
Beloved ~ by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies ~ by William Golding
1984 ~ by George Orwell
Lolita ~ by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men ~ by John Steinbeck
Catch-22 ~ by Joseph Heller
Brave New World ~ by Aldous Huxley
The Sun Also Rises ~ by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying ~ by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms ~ by Ernest Hemingway
Heart of Darkness ~ by Joseph Conrad
Their Eyes were Watching God ~ by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man ~ by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon ~ by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind ~ by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son ~ by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ~ by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five ~ by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls ~ by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild ~ by Jack London
Go Tell It on the Mountain ~ by James Baldwin
All the King's Men ~ by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings ~ by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Jungle ~ by Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover ~ by D. H. Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange ~ by Anthony Burgess
In Cold Blood ~ by Truman Capote
Satanic Verses ~ by Salman Rushdie
Sons and Lovers ~ by D. H. Lawrence
Cat's Cradle ~ by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace ~ by John Knowles
Naked Lunch ~ by William S. Burroughs
Women in Love ~ by D. H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead ~ by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer ~ by Henry Miller
An American Tragedy ~ by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run ~ by John Updike
If you want another list of books to consider, take a look at those in my recent post about Banned Books Week.

How many on this list of 43 have you read? I've read about half of the books on this list, 22 to be exact.


Anonymous said...

I'm astonished to see The Lord of the Rings on that list. I wonder what the rationale was for that?

Mediterranean Views said...

Hi Bonnie, I've read about a dozen and three more are on the reading list for the Int'l. English Book Club I lead here in Southern Spain. Sons & Lovers, Catcher in the Rye, As I Lay Dying. They were all suggestions from non-native English speaking members. The group of 9 or 10 different nationalities, men and women, and an age range from 30's thru 70's makes for a VERY INTERESTING GROUP!!