Posted by: kshayes513 | September 23, 2014

Remembering Madeleine L’Engle and Banned Books

Still one of the most challenged books. My original edition hardcover is now about 50 and autographed.

Still one of the most challenged books. My original edition hardcover is now about 50 and autographed.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to take a couple of weekend writing workshops with Madeleine L’Engle. From her I gained insights, techniques and mental disciplines that are now so integral to my writing processes, that I can’t even separate them out as things I learned then.

Also, during one of those workshops, she told us a story about encountering a would-be book banner. (I’m sure she told this story many times during her life. This is how I remember it after nearly 30 years, so my apologies if others have heard it with different details.)

The woman approached Madeleine to complain about the language in A Wrinkle in Time, and told her exactly how many times certain objectionable words appear. (I’m pretty sure one of the objectionable words was “Mrs Which,” because of course it really means “witch.” Beyond that, I can’t recall if there’s even a “damn” in that book to complain about).

Madeleine very politely responded, “Well, did you like the book? What did you think of the story?”

The woman stared at her in astonishment. and retorted, “I didn’t READ it!!” (Of course not.)

A half century after its publication, A Wrinkle In Time is still one of the most challenged books in the young adult literary canon. On the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most challenged books in the most recent decade, 2000-2009, it’s #90. Here are the current top ten:

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The rest of the list can be found here.  I’ve read only 17 of these, perhaps because so many are relatively new and/or YA. How many have you read? Shall we piss off the book banners and get reading?

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