Banning books is an old story
Re “School board swears off a profane novel,” Feb. 4
The article about the Newman Crows Landing Board of Education reminded me of a brouhaha in Southern California in the early 1960s. It was about a book called “Dictionary of American Slang” that was discovered in school libraries.
As I recall, The Times ran articles about the organized opposition, as well as hysterical letters from readers. Families were so concerned about the “dirty words” contained in the book that they formed action groups to have it banned from school libraries.
To fund the crusade, shocked book banners scoured the book’s contents to find bad words, which they then printed and sold. I believe the several pages cost about a dime - and kids bought them up!
Finally, I remember a letter to The Times by a writer who identified herself as a 16-year-old high school student, who wrote that there were no words in the dictionary that she didn’t hear daily on campus; she pointed out that kids who used those words never went into the library.
I hope Newman Crows Landing also has some sensible high school students who can put this issue into perspective.
I am not often compelled to drop the newspaper and run frantically to the computer to send a letter to the editor, but the banning of “Bless Me, Ultima” got my blood boiling.
As a young Chicano student, I can honestly say that this book had a profound effect on my life -- these were characters I could identify with. There are beautiful lessons in the book: pride in family, respect for elders and traditions, questioning things you know in your heart don’t make sense and, most of all, taking the tragic consequences of life and turning them into your strengths.
These are morals I teach my teenage daughter, who read the book when she was 12. It’s a sad day for our country every time small-minded people are allowed to ban a work of art.