Articles tagged "huckleberry finn"

Banned Books? You Bet.

What causes a book to be banned? Throughout history, banned books are often those that push boundaries, lead us to question the way we live and reveal uncomfortable truths. By banning them, schools, libraries, governments and other institutions are, in effect, affirming the power of written words and the ideas they express.

“So this is the little lady who started this great war,” Abraham Lincoln once said of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And while not every banned book incites civil war, you might be surprised how many do make the list, even in a country dedicated to protecting the freedom of the press. You also might be surprised by how many of these titles you recognize and have read:

1) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Books written by Mark Twain deal frankly with race and include words that have fallen out of favor since the time of publication. These two books continue to be banned by school districts across the country, unsure of how to deal with the delicate matter of verbiage.

2) The Catcher in The Rye. This JD Salinger book is one of the most taught books in American schools, and also the most frequently banned. The book deals with sexuality and vulgarity, as well as smoking, drinking, and cursing at a young age. Taught because of its ability to speak to adolescent readers through its young, articulate narrator, the book is frequently banned for its rejection of both education and authority.

3) Animal Farm. George Orwell, a liberal who was skeptical of any government which infringed on basic human rights, wrote this book out of frustration with both the capitalist and communist systems.

Famous Historical Figures Who Self-Published

In 1640, Stephen Day self-published the Bay Psalm Book, only 20 years after the pilgrims arrived in North America. Consider the self-publisher as the ultimate American underdog. Our history is pretty much filled with individuals who started publishing on their own, in somewhat obscure conditions, to become cultural and political leaders.

Ben Franklin self-published Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1732, well before he became known for his politics and diplomacy. Thomas Paine self-published “Common Sense,” a pamphlet that inspired the American revolution.

It makes sense that self-publishing would be a hotbed of interesting, radical ideas. If your ideas are truly radical and pushing the envelope, there’s a good chance they’ll scare off traditional publishers. We think this means you’re doing something right.

Mark Twain self-published Huckleberry Finn in 1885,  one of the first books to seriously tackle racism in America. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a seminal collection of poetry that has inspired countless American writers, was also self-published.

What is it about self-publishing that attracts some of the best and most influential talent America has to offer? Hemingway self-published his first work, Three Stories and Ten Poems, in 1923. Perhaps it has something to do with the vanguard-status of writers who self-publish. Because they are often ahead of their time, traditional publishers may not feel ready to take a gamble on them. Perhaps because they consider what they have to say more important than definite material reward, they self-publish with an urgency and passion that they wouldn’t find at a publisher.

Thoreau, Stein, Crane… the list goes on. To consider self-publishing a new “trend” would be to ignore the very foundation of publishing and writing in America. In the Internet age, we’re given even more of an opportunity to put our writing out there, to publish it ourselves, be it digitally or physically, to connect with our readers and to make a difference in our world without a publisher, without an advance, without a care in the world.

The history of the American writer is really always the story of an underdog. No one is born a best-seller. Everyone starts as an underdog. There’s no bigger underdog than the self-publishing writer. And pretty consistently in America, the underdog makes a big difference.