In honor of banned book week, I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut. I chose this book because it has been on my “to-read” list for years. For as long as I can remember I have heard constant praise for this book, so of course I was very excited to finally read it. Alas, I was disappointed. Perhaps because this was my first experience with Vonnegut and I was unfamiliar with his writing style. For the most part I found this book to be quite strange. I originally expected a tale of post-traumatic stress disorder, and instead I read about time travel, another planet (Tralfamadore) and the strange happenings of Mr. Billy Pilgrim.
There have been many attempts across the United States to ban this book from high schools. To keep it local, in 2007 a high school in Howell, Michigan challenged this book on the basis that by including this book in the curriculum, sexually explicit materials were being made available to minors. However no legal actions were ever taken after the prosecutor made an announcement that “Slaughterhouse-Five” did not solely target minors. Other schools that have tried to ban this book (of which there have been many) most often have Christian parents citing the vulgar language and sexual content as reasons for not wanting their children to read this book in school.
In 2011, during Banned Book week, “Slaughterhouse-Five” was removed from the library and curriculum of a high school in Republic, Missouri. In a unique (and in my opinion, very cool) move, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered a free copy of the book to any student of that high school. Afterwards there was another vote to put the book back on the shelves of the library. However it was a win/lose situation. It was a win in that it got back into the library, however it was a loss due to the fact that it is now kept in a “secure” part of the library and can only be checked out if the student’s parent or guardian comes in to check it out for them. I can’t see parents wanting to take the time to check out a book for their high school aged son/daughter and honestly, I would be very surprised if this book was checked out very often anymore.
After completing “Slaughterhouse-Five”, I can see why so many are quick to label this as inappropriate. By no means does that mean that this work should be banned from any library. This book is irreverent, sexual and inappropriate, all whilst discussing a firebombing of Dresden, yes, but is it a book that could benefit a high school curriculum? Absolutely. I feel that it would be incredibly beneficial to teach this book in schools because it is a great example of what a satire is. Those that try to ban it, I feel overlook the point that Vonnegut is trying to make, he is not using a voice of authority in this story, but rather telling fictional events from a satirical point of view.
Kavner, Lucas. (2011 July 29). Missouri School District Bans ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ And ‘Twenty Boy Summer’. Retrieved From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/29/slaughterhouse-five-banned-missouri_n_913078.html.
Shannon. (2011 October 1). Banned Books Week: Update on Slaughterhouse-Five Ban in Missouri plus Link to KVLM Video. Retrieved From http://www.vonnegutlibrary.org/banned-books-week-update-on-slaughterhouse-five-ban-in-missouri-plus-link-to-kvml-video/.