According to many critics, Hawthorne should have been less friendly toward his main character, Hester Prynne (in fairness, so should have minister Arthur Dimmesdale). One isn’t surprised by the moralist outrage the book caused in 1852. But when, one hundred and forty years later, the book is still being banned because it is sinful and conflicts with community values, you have to raise your eyebrows. Parents in one school district called the book “pornographic and obscene” in 1977. Clearly this was before the days of the World Wide Web.
I may be cheating in choosing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s THE SCARLET LETTER as the banned book that has left its own scarlet letter—or deep mark—in my heart. When I read the novel in high school in the 1980s, it was part of the curriculum, though I was privileged, yes, truly privileged to grow up in a community and within a family that encouraged me to “read” and seek truths outside of the proverbial box. In middle school, we read a novel called JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN about a young man whose consciousness we enter; and consciousness is all that remains of someone who lost all of his senses—except touch—as a soldier in World War I. Yes, I could have written about this novel, for like several other war novels on the list, among them CATCH-22, JOHNNY GOT HIS GON, too, was banned; and honestly, my wonderful teacher—who cleared the classroom of desks and let us all sit on a rug on the floor—was also highly unusual, even for my school. In many places, he would never have held onto his job. But I digress—~ read more ~