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Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week in the Time of Cholera.

For my turn at Banned Books Week, I could take the easy way out and say that Go Ask Alice is my favorite banned book, since I wrote about it a few months ago. And while I read it and read it and re-read it some more growing up, the fact that the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez have been challenged is more upsetting to me. Sure, Alice’s “diary” contains sex and drugs (I can’t remember if rock and roll is involved), but those are elements that parents might object to. But Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, my all-time favorite book? I object!

Love in the Time of Cholera opens with the best first line of a novel ever (I dismiss you, Ishmael): “The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” Who could resist that? A parent in Montgomery County, MD who said it “should be removed from all county schools because it contained ‘perverse sexual acts’” (65), that’s who. The plot concerns the unrequited love of Florentino Aziza for Fermina Daza, and his devotion to her over the span of his entire life. More than that, however, is the absolutely gorgeous language. For example, there is this:

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.

It’s a very dense, somewhat difficult book that requires a mature reader to understand it—this factor alone should discourage the parent of a younger child from worrying that the child will be warped by reading it, as you have to understand it to keep reading. However, it is much easier to follow than One Hundred Years of Solitude, for which Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982; I had to make a family tree and keep it in the front of my copy while I was reading in order to keep everyone straight. I am glad I did, though, because had I given up, I would’ve missed the part where Remedios the Beauty floats up to heaven—just one of the amazing moments of magic realism where something extraordinary is handled as the ordinary. One Hundred Years of Solitude has also been challenged on the claims that the book “was ‘garbage being passed off as literature’” (65).

Flipping through Robert P. Doyle’s Banned Books (which other staff members have referenced this week as well), there are tons of other fantastic books that I love that have been challenged: Native Son, The Catcher in the Rye, Brideshead Revisited, Song of Solomon, The Sun Also Rises, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Spoon River Anthology, Where the Sidewalk Ends, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gilly Hopkins, the Harry Potter series, Madonna’s Sex (I’m kidding!), The Headless Cupid, and My Darling, My Hamburger.

Librarians want to bring awareness to book challenges during Banned Books Week because we feel that information ought to be available to whoever seeks it. It is a parent’s responsibility to decide what is or isn’t appropriate for their child, and seeking to remove a book from a school or public library punishes the whole community.

Now it’s your turn: what’s your favorite banned book?

Doyle, Robert P. Banned Books. ALA, 2007.

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