Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Banned Books That Shaped America

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The list of authors of frequently and recently banned books reads is very similar to the New York Times Best Seller list: Alexi Sherman, Dr. Seuss, John Green, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Anne Frank, Alice Walker, Stephen Chbosky, William Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Kurt Vonnegut, Augusten Burroughs, and J. D. Salinger. Access to their works is being fought by small fringe groups that want to censor what you can experience. Their agendas vary, but are similar in their desired outcome: control of knowledge. No one is requiring them to read Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, but they want to stop you from having the choice of reading it. Do not let scared small-minded individuals create your world. Fight censorship!

The Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2015, as recorded by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), are:

1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
6. The Holy Bible Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

BuryMyHeart

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970

Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by American writer Dee Brown is a history of Native Americans in the American West in the late nineteenth century that expresses a Native American perspective of the injustices and betrayals of the US government. Brown portrays the government’s dealings as continued efforts to destroy the culture, religion, and way of life of Native American peoples in describing the people’s displacement through forced relocations and years of warfare waged by the United States federal government. Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor is often considered a 19th-century precursor to Dee Brown’s writing.

Prior to the publication of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown had become well versed in the history of the American Frontier. Having grown up in Arkansas, Brown developed a keen interest in the American West and, during his graduate education at George Washington University and his career as a librarian for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he wrote numerous books on the subject. Brown’s works maintained a focus on the American West, but ranged anywhere from western fiction to histories to even children’s books. Many of Brown’s books revolved around similar Native American topics, including his Showdown at Little Bighorn (1964) and The Fetterman Massacre (1974).

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was first published in 1970 to generally strong reviews. Published at a time of increasing American Indian activism, the bestseller has never gone out of print and has been translated into 17 languages. The title is taken from the final phrase of a 20th-century poem titled “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet. The full quotation, “I shall not be here/I shall rise and pass/Bury my heart at Wounded Knee,” appears at the beginning of Brown’s book. Although Benet’s poem is not about the plight of Native Americans, Wounded Knee was the location of the last major confrontation between the U.S. Army and American Indians.

Source: Books That Shaped America | National Book Festival – Library of Congress

Source: Banned Books Week | Banned & Challenged Books Source: Banned Books Week | Celebrating the Freedom to Read: September 25- October 1, 2016

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2 thoughts on “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: Banned Books That Shaped America

    1. You are absolutely right. All the Twilight/Hunger Games/Harry Potter books are contested and someone somewhere wants to limit access to them. Kids are very savvy, even more so now, I am pretty sure that most of them understand what fiction is and will not read any of those books as fact or a how-to manual for witchcraft. Reading. Creativity. Imagination. All important things to nurture in children and exercise as adults.

      This post is the first in a week long (3 a day) series I have created to highlight the absurdity of banning books and to celebrate Banned Book Week.

      Like

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