This year’s top ten “most challenged” books include one of my favorite books of all time, Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
I am not usually one to pick a favorite book when asked. It’s a bit ridiculous to even try. But if someone put a gun to my head and made me pull five books from my shelf before burning the rest, Beloved might well be the first one I would grab.
What do I like about it? I like many many things about it, but from shallow to deep, they range from beautiful, beautiful writing to unflinching historical truth-telling that cuts to the very marrow of the U.S. American story.
There is no United States without the trans-Atlantic slave trade. And until you understand what that meant–economically, socially, politically, culturally, theologically, and in countless other ways large and small–you cannot understand this country. At all.
You can learn about this in many ways, of course–in history books, direct historical records, museums, oral traditions, etc. etc. etc. It’s a rich history, if often a nightmare landscape.
Morrison’s way of researching it and sharing it is through fiction. Beloved is indeed a nightmare landscape, if laced with flashes of human dignity preserved and asserted against all odds. But it never denies an equally human evil that creeps into and curls around the lives of everyone involved in the racialized story of this country–and that is everyone in this country. To this day.
For me, Beloved is perhaps the best candidate in the U.S. canon for “Great American Novel.”
How about you? What banned book do you treasure?