English teachers defend challenged choices

By: Madeline Nicol

Michelle Rathe, an English and acting teacher, claims The Awakening by Kate Chopin as her favorite banned book.

Published in 1899, Chopin’s story deals with strong subjects such as feminism and suicide. Edna, the protagonist of the book, causes a huge commotion with her rejection of societal norms and liberated sexuality.

Rathe loves the book because “no matter what she does, the society doesn’t allow her to go there, so she chooses to stop existing rather than be trapped in a world she can’t handle. Although I don’t admire the choices the character made, what I do like is you have to do everything you can to try and change the system, and what do you do if the system cannot be changed?”


Joe Frenna, who teaches an array of English classes, is always learning something new from his favorite banned book, The Catcher in The Rye.

Released in 1951, J.D Salinger’s classic novel rose to No. 1 on the New York Times  Best Seller List within the week it was released. The novel follows Holden, a student at a private exclusive school and his yearning for identity and belonging.

“It was the first book I was asked to read in high school that I actually enjoyed. It moved me and confused me in a way that wanted me to read it again and again. Holden Caufield’s struggle felt familiar to me. Each time I read it (it has been several years now), I learn something new,” Frenna said.

Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in The Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.


English teacher Heidi Anderson couldn’t think of a favorite banned book, so she chose a highly challenged book, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Published by Harper Lee in 1961, To Kill A Mockingbird is seen as warm and beautiful despite some serious topics such as rape and racial inequality. Lee loosely based the book on her own observations, her family and neighbors, as well as on a trial that took place in her hometown in 1963 when she was 10 years old.

“It’s probably my favorite book partly because how it’s written from an adult perspective but also reflecting back to her childhood experiences, and through that we get to see how she grows, and it’s masterfully done,” Anderson said about the beauty of this challenged book. The novel has been challenged many a time for racial inequality and mentions of rape and violence, but it was never fully banned.


Courtney Lubs, an English teacher  who counts Great Books as one of her classes, had trouble choosing only one, but when she did, it was with sadness. “I’ll miss teaching it this year,” said Lubs about her favorite banned book, The Color Purple.

The novel takes place in rural Georgia and focuses on the life of African American women in the South during the 1930s. It mainly portrays the story of Celie, a poor and uneducated 14-year-old African American. Lubs said she thinks this book is important because “I just think Celie’s finding and coming to love herself is especially powerful in that text.”



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