There really is more to the story


My sophomore high school English teacher was an evil man – or at least, I thought so at the time. Only the devil himself would make a bunch of 15-year-olds spend every waking moment outside of school reading a big, thick old-people book every ten days or so and then demand a book report about it. It was criminal! How were we supposed to have any kind of fun at all?

Mr. Knaak was a very tall, robust man who wore thick, black horn-rimmed glasses. Although he was soft spoken, my classmates and I were still a bit scared of him. I am assuming he is now deceased since he was old (at least 50) at the time. But if he was alive today, I would give him the biggest, longest hug ever. It was because of him that I developed a lifelong love of reading and enjoyed some of the greatest literary works of all time.

We must learn from them, not erase them from the historical record.

Sadly, many of the books we were required to read are now banned in many places. They include one of my favorites, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Why? The claim is that it was banned “because of racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “‘white savior’ character and its perception of the Black experience.” This book was one of the most-assigned novels in American schools. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. How can a white lawyer successfully defending a Black man accused of raping a white woman be a bad thing? Especially when it was the white woman’s own father who raped her?

Also banned are “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and a childhood favorite, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” George Orwell wrote two fascinating books – “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Upon learning that Mr. Orwell’s books had been banned, my son immediately ordered them online so we would always have them here at home. These are just a few examples of the classic novels that have been banned from many schools, libraries and bookstores.

When these authors wrote their novels, they reflected not only vivid imaginations but also the times in which they lived. Even these works of fiction represent history, whether we like it or not. We must learn from them, not erase them from the historical record. And none of what’s in these books that are deemed unacceptable by those banning them has gone away. Offensive language still exists. Racial slurs and discrimination still exist. Pornography still exists. Adultery still exists. Rape, incest and sexual abuse still exist. And all of these things exist in books that have not been banned, as well as in countless TV shows and movies.

April 23-29 is National Library Week and this year’s theme is “There’s more to the story.” Truer words have never been spoken. This will be a good time to visit your local library and check out some great reads. If you don’t, you may never get to know the whole story.  


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