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10 Books Banned Because Critics Missed the Point

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10 Books Banned Because Critics Missed the Point

Books are often banned or challenged because their critics read a novel’s content without any context. An off-the-cuff swear word could be used as ammunition for getting a book taken off the shelves, especially if the critics aren’t reading between the lines, and only looking at words. Ironically, the reason many books are banned is simply because the people behind the censorship have absolutely no idea what the story they’re reading is actually about. Check out this list of 10 books banned for the wrong reasons.

1. The Lord of the Flies, William Golding

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    Golding’s infamous story about a group of children who, upon crashing onto a deserted island, slowly develop a microcosm that ultimately leads to death and destruction has been challenged time and again, for a variety of reasons. Most notably, it was challenged in a North Carolina high school for being “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.” Okay, so I guess these parents didn’t exactly misunderstand the book, but they certainly misunderstood that this is exactly what the reader is supposed to get out of reading the novel.

    2. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

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      Published in 1951, Catcher in the Rye chronicles the adventures of teenage misanthrope Holden Caulfield. Critics have pointed to the vulgar language, sexual references, and situations with alcohol in their crusade to ban this book from library shelves and high school English classes since 1960. What they fail to realize is the story is told by Holden, not by Salinger. What did they expect a story told by a cynical teenager suffering from depression (to say the least) to contain? That it’s not made blatantly clear until the end of the novel that Holden is telling this story from the comfort of a mental institution makes you wonder if the critics even finished it, or were too busy counting how many times Caulfield drops the “f-bomb” to get around to it.

      3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

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        One of the most popular American novels also happens to be one of the most misunderstood stories of our time. The fact that the 2013 movie release spawned many “Gatsby-themed” parties throughout the country make it even more obvious that Fitzgerald’s intentions have gone unnoticed by the general population. Ironically, the degenerate actions of most of the characters within Gatsby have little to do with the reason the novel has been challenged since its publication in 1925. It was challenged in the 1980s by Baptist College in South Carolina, citing use of the words “d—,” “h—,” and “son-of-a-b—-,” as well as a couple of vague sexual innuendos. Honestly, if they wanted to ban the book that badly, there is a ton of material they could have used that would make much more sense.

        4. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

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          Catch-22 is the story of a World War II soldier who desperately wants to leave the battlefield on grounds of insanity. However, he cannot since anyone who would want to leave the armed forces is obviously not insane, and therefore must fight. It’s a scathing commentary on the “heroics” of war, painting a picture that the purpose of war is to perpetuate the war itself. Seen as anti-patriotic, it was banned by an Ohio school district in 1972. However, this ban was lifted four years later. Ironically, it was banned in a Washington city for the references to prostitutes throughout the novel. Of all the contextual evidence critics could have used, they rely on the use of a simple word to constitute a banning.
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          5. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

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            Ellison’s novel paints a vivid picture of the atrocities of race relations in early 20th century America. While incredibly eye-opening, it is also incredibly graphic, gratuitous, and disturbing. Despite an overwhelming positive response from critics, complaints from two parents were enough to ban the novel in a North Carolina city school district. One adult claimed the story did not have “any literary value” at all. Ironic, since TIME magazine called this book “the quintessential American picaresque of the 20th century.” Did the parents who argued against the teaching of this book also argue against teaching the realities of pre-Civil Rights-era America?

            6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

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              Kesey’s famous depiction of the atrocities committed against patients in a 1950s mental institution has been challenged by a number of school districts. Most notably, the same Ohio district that challenged Catch-22 also decided that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest “glofiries criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination.” While it’s clear that they at least read the book, it’s not so evident that they understood Kesey’s message. Unfortunately, the author’s message, that mental patients are human beings and should be treated as such, must have gone right out the window with Chief Bromden.

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              7. The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

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                An incredibly vivid, gratuitous, and overall disturbing novel, The Naked and the Dead chronicles the atrocities of World War II unlike any other novel to date. I’ll be blatantly honest, I couldn’t finish it. It’s that heart-wrenching, twisted, and depressing. Of course, that has nothing to do with why people have wanted to ban it since its publication in 1948. It was banned in Canada and Australia for the use of the word “fug” (a euphemism which I’m sure you can figure out), and for being deemed “disgusting” by the Canadian Minister of National Revenue, despite his not actually having read the novel at all. He’s right though, the novel is disgusting, but so is war.

                8. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

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                  One of Steinbeck’s greatest novels, The Grapes of Wrath centers on a working-class family trying to stay afloat during the Great Depression. Published in 1939, the work was attacked for its wanton depiction of Depression-era life for those negatively affected by the stock market crash. Though Steinbeck himself argued that real life was much worse for the poor than how his novel depicted it, many critics accused him of spreading political propaganda. Regardless of all of this, the book has also been challenged or banned in a variety of school districts because the characters at times take the Lord’s name in vain. I mean, how dare these people who have been forced to the brink of starvation let their frustrations out through a few carelessly used phrases?

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                  9. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury

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                    It can’t get any more ironic, can it? A story about the slippery slope of censorship actually being chopped up and expurgated is like…I can’t even come up anything as ridiculous to compare this to. Well, it gets funnier. The book wasn’t outright banned, but a California school district actually went through the trouble of blanking out vulgar words and passages throughout the novel. Another district in Texas challenged the novel for “discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, ‘dirty talk,’ references to the Bible, and using God’s name in vain.” I should end this list now so you can reflect on the irony of this situation, but there’s one more important one to get to.

                    10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

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                      The “Great American Novel” has been challenged since its publication over 100 years ago. Unfortunately, the most important novel in American history is also the most misunderstood. Yes, it’s vulgar. Yes, it uses the “n-word.” Yes, it does expose God-fearing, church-going pre-Civil War Americans as the racist imbeciles most of them were. However, the story is an absolute necessity for anyone hoping to understand what it was like, not only for Blacks in America at the time, but also for anyone who has faced a life-changing moral dilemma during their time on Earth. Any critics who point to the characters’ vulgar language or immoral actions in the novel as evidence the book should be banned have missed Twain’s purpose for writing it. If everyone in the world lived by Huck’s code of ethics, there would be far less violence, hatred, and prejudice.

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                      Featured photo credit: Books/Pixabay via pixabay.com

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                      Matt Duczeminski

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                      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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                      How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                      You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

                      Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

                      Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

                      Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

                      1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

                      According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

                      “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

                      Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

                      Warming up

                      If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

                      If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

                      Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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                      1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
                      2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
                      3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

                      Stay hydrated

                      Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

                      To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

                      Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

                      Meditate

                      Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

                      Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

                      Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

                      Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

                      2. Focus on your goal

                      One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

                      Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

                      Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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                      Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

                      If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

                      3. Convert negativity to positivity

                      There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

                      ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

                      It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

                      Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

                      Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

                      Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

                      4. Understand your content

                      Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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                      However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

                      “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

                      Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

                      Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

                      One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

                      5. Practice makes perfect

                      Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

                      In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

                      Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

                      6. Be authentic

                      There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

                      Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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                      Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

                      To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

                      With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

                      Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

                      7. Post speech evaluation

                      Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

                      Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

                      We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

                      You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

                      Improve your next speech

                      As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

                      Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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                      • How did I do?
                      • Are there any areas for improvement?
                      • Did I sound or look stressed?
                      • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
                      • Was I saying “um” too often?
                      • How was the flow of the speech?

                      Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

                      If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

                      Reference

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