By the Book: To censor or not

No book should be banned or censored. I believe this and live by this. I believe that one must read a variety of things before one can learn what is important and what is not.

Through the years I have read everything some authors have written: John Irving, William Styron, Maeve Binchy, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Mickey Spillane (yes, there are a lot of Mike Hammer novels), and Mary Stewart. In full disclosure I read Stewart’s Merlin Series (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and The Wicked Day) before beginning on her gothic romances…I had become hooked on her writing. Then I read history, biographies, and about beliefs including: Mein Kampf, The Red Book, and The Koran/Quran in English and the King James Version of the Bible. My father was a Baptist minister and encouraged me to learn and encouraged me to read a variety of books. He also taught me an important lesson about censorship.

When I was in the fifth grade, we lived in a rural area of Louisiana where the schools were so small one teacher taught both the fifth and sixth grades in the same classroom. There was no library but a book mobile came every week. Each shelf in the book mobile was labeled as to level of reading based on classrooms. One day I chose the book Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson. I had read all the books on the fifth-grade shelf. This novel was on the eleventh-grade shelf. The librarian would not check it out for me.

My father, when he learned that the book was denied and who had no money to spare, found a way to purchase a copy of the book and gave it to me. He said, “no one should ever tell you what you could read. Read many things and decide for yourself.”

I learned the lesson of censorship that day that has influenced my entire life.

Recently I reread my hardback copy of Green Mansions. Though many reviewers set the story in Venezuela, it is actually set in the forests of Guyana. After leaving a revolutionary movement, the hero, Abel, retreats to the forest and meets Rima, the last survivor of a mysterious race. Published in 1904, Green Mansions offers the reader the ecological theme of losing wilderness and returning to nature combined with the problems encountered when savages and civilized men meet. I loved the book even with repeated readings.

I have placed my copy of Green Mansions on display in my living room. I never want to forget the role it has played in forming my ideas on censorship. A story of love, of nature, of dreams, of uniqueness lives within me and continues through the kindness of my father who gave me the gift of reading.


— Leara Rhodes is an associate professor at UGA’s Grady College and the author of magazine articles, academic articles and books (The Ethnic Press: Shaping the American Dream, Democracy and the Role of the Haitian Media, and a forthcoming book, Peace Through Media. New York: Lang Publishers, 2014.)


By the Book_WTR15

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