Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

September 18, 2013

House of Burgess: Read a banned book

Celebrate disputed authors from A to Zinn.

(Continued)

In my original Aug. 8 column, I issued a challenge: I would read a chapter of the book a day and discuss it on my Twitter feed using the hashtag #zinnbookclub. I’m just now finishing the book for the second time in my life and the discussions it has prompted have been intriguing. I think Daniels and his ilk imagine supporters of Zinn’s work want it to be the first, last and only American history book anyone reads. They probably picture some fantasy world where it is treated like Chairman Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” was in China during the Cultural Revolution. “A People’s History” would make zero sense to someone who has never absorbed the sanitized, mainstream version of this country’s past. It’s meant to be a corrective to the record, not the record itself.

Incidentally, the timing of all this couldn’t have been better. The 31st annual Banned Books Week is set to return Sunday. Robert P. Doyle’s report on the most-challenged or banned books from May 2012 to May 2013, as reported in the Journal on Intellectual Freedom, is a fascinating read. The list runs the entire spectrum of quality levels: From E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Challenged texts also cover every age range: From books for young adults like Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” to more adult fare like Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club.” Examples of both fiction, like Stephen King’s “Different Seasons,” and non-fiction, like Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America,” are represented. I encourage you to experience a banned book for yourself so you can form your own opinion about it.

Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at rob.burgess@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.

 

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