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Feb—The Color Purple (2016) > Books and Censorship

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Wikipedia says that The color purple is number 17 on the American Library List of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009. My theory is that people want their kids to read books about the way the world should be, not books about the way that the world is.


message 2: by Alexandria (new)

Alexandria Barnard | 4 comments 100% agree!


message 3: by Melle (new)

Melle (feministkilljoy13) | 68 comments I also think a lot of people have an aversion to "the n word." For whatever reason, that tends to be mostly white people. I feel unable to comment on that, as a white woman, but I will say the word makes me incredibly uncomfortable. That said, I totally agree with you! Kids need to read all sorts of perspectives.


message 4: by Ana, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Ana PF | 746 comments Mod
Isn't it unfortunate that we end up reaching such a conclusion? :( I think that, in many instances, people love to...uhhh, as we say in Spanish, fill their mouths with beautiful words. Love, respect, diversity!! Food for thought from an early age! Then your child's school select a book that makes you feel uncomfortable because it challenges your beliefs / established order and boom, controversy ensues and feelings get hurt.

While we should always ensure our kids read age-appropriate material, this does not equal censorship. Kids who are lacking in different perspectives are badly set for life in a big, ever-changing world.


message 5: by Tim (new)

Tim Melle wrote: "I also think a lot of people have an aversion to "the n word." For whatever reason, that tends to be mostly white people. I feel unable to comment on that, as a white woman, but I will say the word..."

Agreed, I live in Belgium and we're a lot more comfortable with the word, not that we use it on formal occasions of course. But then again, racist attrocities committed by Belgians happened abroad (i.e. the Congo) and mainly for the crown, whereas in the U.S. it was a domestic matter committed mainly by civilians. It's probably for that reason that the n-word carries so much more weight in the U.S. than it does here. On the FB group of my class, we were discussing what we would dress up as for this special occasion at school, and the one black person in my class (a girl, whom I only met this year) said, quote: "I'm going [dressed up] as [a] niggaaaa". Also, a lot of people seem to forget that the n-word originates from the Latin word "niger" which just means "black". So, what is the real difference between saying "blacks" and "niggers" or "negroes"? They sure don't seem to mind calling themselves or each other that, from what I've seen. So as I see it, it's only a descriptive word that is often used in racist contexts but not inherently racist. The n-word may amplify the racism of what someone is saying, but it doesn't create it. It's a multiplier, not an addition, I were to put it mathematically. If you say something that isn't racist and multiply it by the n-word, logically speaking, the result remains the same. That's my opinion.

As for books and stories in general, I think they can be whatever they want to be, as they're just stories at the end of the day.


message 6: by Donaji (new)

Donaji I don't have kids, but I am not sure I would like my kid or my younger siblings to read the color purple before they reach a more mature age, there are a lot of fantastic books out there that are more children appropriate, and as per letting them know how life really is, I think that having with them the proper information about life and the world at the needed time is of great importance. I am not on favor of censorship, I would just make sure to give my kids the guidance and material they need according to their age.


message 7: by Felicity (new)

Felicity | 1 comments Sara wrote: "Wikipedia says that The color purple is number 17 on the American Library List of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009. My theory is that people want their kids to read books about..."

I wonder, in terms of this book being challenged, what age group this book tends to be aimed at? Would you find this book in the children's section of the library, or "Young Adult", or adult? Does restricting it to a section in the library or the book store discourage or advise particular groups against reading it?

Our local library only stocks The Color Purple in the Adult Non-Fiction section, which I thought was quite surprising. Considering how many of my friends read and discussed this book at secondary school as part of English Literature studies (maybe aged around 15), I expected to find it in the Young Adult section.


message 8: by Tina (new)

Tina Sara, I think you make an entirely plausible point. Although, I had to read plenty of books in grade school that in no way mirrored how I wanted the world to be!! This is my first time reading The Color Purple, and I can see why it was not a choice of my schools growing up. Our literature was incredibly white washed. I think it's important to expose children, (and people as a whole!) to diverse stories, diverse characters, and stories that challenge the fairy tale images some concoct of our world past and present.


message 9: by Sascha (new)

Sascha | 391 comments I don't think that the reason why the book was banned from libraries is a sensible reason. Because I suspect that the "usual suspects" of deeply religious, homophobe and antifeminist fanatics are pressing to ban the book. I don't think that these people really care for kids or anyone else. They just want to "save" people from free speech and literature that could question social norms and that address problems of our societies. They are against diversity, against sexual freedom, against autonomy of women and against equality in general. That's why they try to ban books like "The color purple".

But the other question is if the book is or is not appropriate for kids. And I would say that it is not appropriate for very young kids as far as the explicit language and the portrayal of violence is concerned. But on the other hand, it is of course appropriate for older kids, for teenagers. Maybe it would be a good idea to discuss some issues together with the kids before you give them the book to read.

But banning the book from libraries is just stupid. It means to succumb to the boring demands of religious fanatics who always claim that their only aim is to "save" our children.


message 10: by Henriette (new)

Henriette Terkelsen (henrietteterkelsen) I read this book for the first time as a young teenager. I think I was 14. And I cried. And I raged. And then I talked to my father, who is a pretty well informed man, and he walked me through the circumstances, the perspectives, the dealing. As he has done with many a book/article/world problem.
I am a firm believer in guiding, not restricting, your childs acces to books. I have always had easy acces to all kinds of books, and sometimes I have read something I was not quite old enough to digest. Sometimes my parents said "I don't think you're ready for that one" - and explained their reasons for thinking so - and sometimes I've put down the book and sometimes I've read on to discover that they where either right or wrong.
My kids will have (and already have - but they're 3 and 5 and not reading yet) acces to alot of books. And I will try to guide them and make sure they know that I am always willing to discuss topics that upset them.


message 11: by Tina (new)

Tina Henriette,

I think that is a great way to go about it! I don't have children but I think that if I did, I would allow them to read what they chose to read. I would never want to discourage reading. Growing up I was always told I was an old soul and I felt too mature for my cohorts and my reading often mirrored that. It was nice to have a place where I could find content that matched my mind. I think that there are plenty of ways in which children today grow up too fast, reading content should be the least of our concerns!


message 12: by Agustin (new)

Agustin | 223 comments Welcome to the Pollitical-correctness era.


message 13: by Melle (new)

Melle (feministkilljoy13) | 68 comments Agustin wrote: "Welcome to the Pollitical-correctness era."

I disagree. While it does get taken too far, I think being away of groups other than the ones you belong to and how you could potentially be offending them is not a bad thing.


message 14: by Kressel (new)

Kressel Housman | 436 comments I think the reason for the ban is all the sex.


message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie (juliejuz) | 97 comments Tina wrote: "Henriette,

I think that is a great way to go about it! I don't have children but I think that if I did, I would allow them to read what they chose to read. I would never want to discourage readin..."


Totally agreed Henriette & Tina ! Henriette, I think your parents did a great job with your readings, it's a very nice way to deal with how to approach reading with your kid :) Going to try to do the same with mine !


message 16: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments From what I read, censorship must have ravaged in the German edition. There's nothing explicit about sex or violence in the German edition. (Or I'm just, as we say in German, too much infused in hot water.)

But from what I read, it makes me believe the English version is horrible when it comes to sex and violence. The German edition is not really horrible about that. ( In means of explicity, not the issues that are portrayed - they are indeed horrible)


message 17: by Erika (new)

Erika (erikanieman) | 6 comments I bought a used copy of this book to save a few bucks. While reading it, I stumbled upon 5 missing pages. I looked online to find the missing pages and found that they are the scenes where Celie and Shug talk about Celie being raped and then they sleep together.

I figured that all you smart people would probably have already talked about the issue of censorship. It seems to me, based on the content, that it's more likely someone deliberately removed these pages from the book than it was an accident.

My first reaction is a mix between not being surprised and sadness. I'm not quite sure what to think though. This scene is clearly an important one and to skip it entirely would, I think, change the way someone sees this story and these characters.


message 18: by Lindi (new)

Lindi | 1 comments MeerderWörter -- now you've got me curious about the German version! In those first few pages of the book, I wouldn't call the sex or violence explicit, but it's there when you read between the lines. Celie is too young to completely understand what's going on and since the book is in her voice, she can't really describe it. Later, she knows more and can describe it.

Re censorship in school libraries, it is almost always an issue of age appropriateness. I agree that this is perfect for upper school students. There are a few funny bits leavening the outrage (and there is no one more righteous than a 14 year old) and there's hope. Unfortunately, there are people who want to protect their children and every one else's children from "unpleasantness," even when a book has such a positive message.

And of course woman who dare to be their own persons are always suspect.


message 19: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I could buy one and send it to you, if you wish. (I don't know where you live). In the first pages it seems to be the same with the English version, but later on it is just like the first few pages. I will finish it today and then review it on my book blog.

I hate censorship so much, it makes me feel like: Honestly, what's so cruel I, 19 years old, am not allowed to know of it. (When I most probably do - the Internet is full of all of humanity's cruel stuff, so censorship won't stop me from not knowing it.)


message 20: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Trofimencoff | 48 comments It is Freedom to Read this week. "The Color Purple" made the list of banned books so it is terrific that we are collectively reading this novel. Walker was brave to tackle so many important yet controversial topics in this novel.
It is amazing to think that books are still being challenged and banned (in some cases depending where you live). Here is the website if you have not heard of it: http://www.freedomtoread.ca/


message 21: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Tracy wrote: "It is Freedom to Read this week. "The Color Purple" made the list of banned books so it is terrific that we are collectively reading this novel. Walker was brave to tackle so many important yet con..."

About Walker and banned books... I totally share your opinion. There are many ways to be courageous, and this is one way of being it.


message 22: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Kendall (_pochemuchka_) | 35 comments I had assumed that it was more the rape and same-sex content that lead more to it being banned than anything else.

I do have a child, and I don't intend to censor his reading at all. HOWEVER, I think it's extremely important, as a parent (and as a bookseller), to be fully aware of what your children are reading.

This is a book what would require a lot of discussion and, I suspect, a lot of emotional support while your teen or preteen is reading it.

It's good for kids to see the world as it is, but throwing them into the deep end seems like a bad idea if you're not standing their with a lifesaver.


message 23: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Amanda wrote: "I had assumed that it was more the rape and same-sex content that lead more to it being banned than anything else.

I do have a child, and I don't intend to censor his reading at all. HOWEVER, I t..."


Well, Joanne K. Rowling thinks you're the perfect parent when it comes to reading. She was asked which age of readers she would like to have for her book "The Casual Vacancy". And she said, ( and one has to say it is a book for adults), it would be interesting to booktalk it with 15-year-olds. Or that she likes the idea of parents reading Harry Potter to their kids, and talk with them about it.

It is horrible to throw kids into the deep end. Happened to me in school and I was SHOCKED. I LOVE books, but I really hated that book in particular, then.


message 24: by Adina (new)

Adina Hilton (adinahilton14) | 10 comments I would have loved to read this book during high school. The book gives such a great opportunity for teachers and students to discuss the complex themes in the book. The books read in high school are too often white-centered, even when they address historical times. One example of this is "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain. I loved reading this book in high school, and it talks about slavery and African Americans, but the main character is Huck Finn, a white boy.

How much MORE empowering and powerful it could be to read a book about African Americans, WRITTEN by an African American and with African American main characters like "The Color Purple."


message 25: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Yes, right you are, Adina.

But I'm talking about a book I had to read in German for my German class. I really wanted to kill this book, because I couldn't understand the characters' actions. Now, I can. But it took me some time to discover that. I'm glad we don't have this white/black issue as much as you in US have. Nonetheless, we in Europe can learn a lot from it, especially with the effects of the migrant crisis.


message 26: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Kendall (_pochemuchka_) | 35 comments MeerderWörter wrote: "Amanda wrote: "I had assumed that it was more the rape and same-sex content that lead more to it being banned than anything else.

I do have a child, and I don't intend to censor his reading at al..."


Which book in particular? The Casual Vacancy? Or the Color Purple?


message 27: by Amanda (last edited Feb 23, 2016 11:32PM) (new)

Amanda Kendall (_pochemuchka_) | 35 comments MeerderWörter wrote: "Amanda wrote: "I had assumed that it was more the rape and same-sex content that lead more to it being banned than anything else.

I do have a child, and I don't intend to censor his reading at al..."


Which book in particular? The Casual Vacancy? Or the Color Purple?

I don't recall anything in the Casual Vacancy that I would feel hesitant to talk about with a 15 year old.

That being said, I think some of the books chosen in high schools are just flat-out poorly chosen. We read Brave New World, and I absolutely hated it. I think now, at 29, that we simply didn't have enough experience with the world to properly understand the themes.

It's all well and good to give teens things with lofty themes to read, but it's ridiculous to expect them to internalize them in the same way that one would at college age, middle age, or even old age.

We grow as people, and at such different rates that it's hard to generalize, I think.


message 28: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Kendall (_pochemuchka_) | 35 comments Adina wrote: "I would have loved to read this book during high school. The book gives such a great opportunity for teachers and students to discuss the complex themes in the book. The books read in high school a..."

I absolutely agree that more books should be taught in schools that aren't white-centric (or hetero-centric, when it comes down to it).

I don't think this one in particular would be a good fit for that, but I definitely would love to see not just more diversity, but outright equal classroom time in that respect.


message 29: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments I read The Casual Vacancy and loved it. And yes, we mature as we grow, so whenever you read a good book again, it gives you something new.

Like Harry Potter.


message 30: by Molly Anna (new)

Molly Anna (molly_anna) Adina, I agree with you: I wish I had read this in high school! There is a particular potency and almost urgency in coping with and understanding the themes presented. I feel I would have been a much more informed feminist entering college -- that it would have given me a broader social justice platform to build off of.
But as an educator, I can see where many would want to ban this book... And that is unfortunate. These are the stories and themes that we must learn to navigate as adults in the "real" world. Shielding our children from "unpleasantness" only breeds ignorant, compassionless individuals.
All in all, I absolutely appreciate this book and was overjoyed by so many aspects of the story and how it was told.


message 31: by Katherine (new)

Katherine | 7 comments I would agree with younger kids not reading it. More so agreeing that the kids know some of the subject at least before diving in. I know if I tries to read this when i was younger I wouldn't understand all of the implications.


message 32: by MeerderWörter (new)

MeerderWörter | 2388 comments Katherine wrote: "I would agree with younger kids not reading it. More so agreeing that the kids know some of the subject at least before diving in. I know if I tries to read this when i was younger I wouldn't under..."

I think you have to be in your upper teens to understand most of the implacations. 18 or 19 seems to be a good age, I can't say I was not able to understand all implacations. (But I read it in German, so most likely, bits were lost in the translation.)


message 33: by Suzi (new)

Suzi (sbommers) | 33 comments Felicity wrote: "Sara wrote: "Wikipedia says that The color purple is number 17 on the American Library List of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 2000-2009. My theory is that people want their kids to rea..."

Felicity, I'm not sure if this is universally true, but I recently learned that in the US, books are classified as "children's," "young adult," etc. by the publishing company based on the age of the main character. The idea is that children and youths then to gravitate toward stories with main characters they can relate to and want to, or want to grow to become.

Books chosen by schools are selected more on content than the age of the character; what can students learn from the material?


message 34: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 66 comments The publishing company decides it? I didn't know that, that's interesting. I'm not sure that would apply across the board, though, because there are a lot of books that have a child as a primary character but are definitely "adult" in content (i.e. if they are super dark). But I hadn't really paid attention to that, you may be right.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Ok, the book may be hard to read but I would not see a point to censor it.

I read one comment in the thread (the one of Henriette) I tend to agree with. Overall, I would say that everyone should be able to read any books while there are people who can help the reading or answer questions.

I mean censoring everything because it's about violence does not looks good to me since at one point you realize what's life in an abrupt way. I feel that if you support you children, guide them (I say guide not lead because in leading there is a notion of "I want you to do or be that"), then it allows them to develop themselves with an global point of view of life. I'm not saying to throw them in a river while yelling "now you learn how to swim", I am just saying that we should maybe try to inform and guide rather than overprotect. The best protection being (in my opinion) to be well-developed and as much informed as possible.

Ok, maybe my mind will change whenever I'll have children but the mentor in me tells me "do not hinder the truth, show it but support if it hurts."


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