Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Books Week: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

During the month of June I came across I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and picked it up to read. I had heard of the title time and time again and knew it was a common reading for high schools but not once had I been required to read it. I have a Bachelors degree in English and despite taking many English classes there were still a lot of classics that I had passed by.

So quickly I took the book out and devoured it. Seeing the many reasons books have been challenged in the past I was not surprised to find Maya Angelou's book listed as the sixth most challenged book from 2000-2009 and the third most challenged book from 1990-1999.

TIME Magazine had an article out in 2008 with this quick sum-up of the reason for the book being challenged:
This 1970 memoir — the first of Maya Angelou's five autobiographical works — angered censors for its graphic depiction of racism and sex, especially the passages in which she recounts being raped by her mother's boyfriend as an 8-year-old child.
How can we judge and ban the truthful telling of a real womans life? Are we pretending that this woman never lived? That the racism and sex never occurred?  It reminds me of some insane story where a woman is raped and the family refuses to believe it. Or better yet- when people say a person 'asks' to be raped. This happened and Maya Angelou was brave enough to make a statement about it. To tell the world one of the most upsetting of secrets might possibly let other women who have been violated that it's okay to come out and be honest. It is never right for a person to be attacked in this way and it shouldn't happen. But, how can we try to fix something if everyone pretends it never happened? This is another one of those unfortunate facts of the world. You wish things like this didn't happen but it does happen.

And racism? That's still prominent unfortunately. Maybe in another fifty years that will all have changed but we need to be educated in the matter, I think, in order to move on.

I just feel flabbergasted by this, how can a person try to censor someone elses life? If you don't want to know about it- don't read it- but never prevent someone else from having the chance to learn from her real life story.

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