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10 Books Banned Because Critics Missed the Point

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.

                      Featured photo credit: Books/Pixabay via pixabay.com

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                      Last Updated on January 15, 2019

                      How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                      How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                      Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

                      In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                      Step right up, don’t be shy!

                      Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

                      The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

                      Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

                      Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
                      So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

                      A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

                      Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

                      Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

                      When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

                      Culturally Conditioned

                      We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

                      I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

                      The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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                      Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

                      Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

                      Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

                      1. Broadens Your Network

                      After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

                      2. Improves Your Communication Skills

                      I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

                      Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

                      3. Continually Learning

                      So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

                      Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

                      4. Increases Self Confidence

                      Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

                      Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

                      So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

                      How to Talk to Strangers

                      Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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                      1. Say Hello

                      Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

                      Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

                      Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

                      2. Ask About Them

                      Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

                      You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

                      As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

                      3. Just Do It

                      One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

                      When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

                      Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

                      4. Don’t Take It Personal

                      One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

                      When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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                      5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

                      I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

                      One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

                      6. Detach

                      A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

                      Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

                      7. Share Your Stories

                      Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

                      To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

                      So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

                      8. Give a Compliment

                      Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

                      When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

                      9. Relax Your Body Language

                      If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

                      When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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                      If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

                      10. Practice, Practice, Practice

                      Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

                      Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

                      After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

                      The Bottom Line

                      As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

                      There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                      Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

                      Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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                      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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