Deb Erika’s Gotta Cut Loose

Erika MarksI have a confession: I had no idea there was such a concept as book banning (or burning for that matter) until I saw the movie Footloose in 1984. True story.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, in an early scene one of the residents of the small town interrupts a social gathering to report his concern that the library is offering the book (if memory serves) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, at which point the new kid in town, foxy Ren, announces that he’s read it, and, yeah, it’s a great book.


Now it isn’t that I was dim, or that I wasn’t paying attention, but I really didn’t know it was possible—or why anyone would want—to ban a book.

Oh, but it got so much worse! I then learned there was a list. And there were lots of books on this list, including one that I’d already read—To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee—and another that was on my current English class’s reading list even—A Separate Peace by John Knowles.

So wait, let me understand this: these books were actually removed from the shelves of certain schools and libraries?

How could that be?

Was I missing something?

The point is, I wasn’t. In fact, up until then, I had no idea how lucky I was to grow up in a house, a school, a world where I never had to miss a thing, thanks to the availability of books and my own freedom of choice to decide which ones I did and didn’t wish to read.

Banning books? That’s almost as crazy as banning, I don’t know, dancing.

So Ren: Thanks, buddy. This one’s for you.

Tell me, friends–do you remember where you were when you learned about banned books?

30 Replies to “Deb Erika’s Gotta Cut Loose”

  1. I might be with you, Erika, in having learned about banned books from Footloose, because I don’t remember the concept of censorship existing in my consciousness before then. But oh, Footloose. And I never really believed, until I was an adult and spoke to some people raised in communities very different than my own, that dancing could ever be banned. I was very sheltered as a kid, but I think in a pretty good way.

    (And I think you’ll be pleased to know that Footloose actually gets a mention in SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE)

    1. No. Way! I already knew I’d be head over heels for SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE and now you tell me there’s a Footloose mention? I can’t wait!

      In some cases, like yours and mine, being sheltered isn’t a bad thing if it means you can be sheltered from things like book banning…

  2. Did you see that a remake of Footloose is scheduled to be released in the US next month? I can’t believe that movie is old enough to make a remake of! (Talk about an awkward sentence. *grin*)

    You know, I can’t remember when I first became aware of the concept of book banning. Probably when I first read the book 1984, by George Orwell, when I was a teenager. Have to admit, the whole idea was as alien to me as anything written in science fiction. I just couldn’t believe there were really people who thought they had the right to tell what I could and couldn’t read.

    1. Linda, this has been a tough year for us 80s kids. First news of a remake of Dirty Dancing, then Footloose (and now I understand there’s even a remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing)…I cannot bear to even think on it.

      If they dare touch Flashdance, it’s war.

  3. Well, I must have been in elementary school when I learned about banned books. I was in 6th grade when I added books to the list at my school. Being raised so strictly, it was just the way things were done. My oh my how I’ve changed!

  4. I do remember certain books being banned when I was in school (but I honestly don’t remember which ones). As the daughter of college professors, it really didn’t affect me because my parents encouraged me to read anything and everything! Like you, I grew up in a world where I never had to miss a thing.

    1. Of course you did! Thank you Mom and Dad!!

      Why is it that so often what it is considered objectionable about said books is the very thing that makes them distinctive? The subject of disillusioned youth in A Catcher in the Rye? Um, yeah. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

      Like so many things, I would rather see dialogs ensue as opposed to complete removal of a subject matter. Books are here to enlighten and yes, sometimes, inflame. Why is that something to be feared or squashed? More reading = more talking. Always a good thing in my mind.

      Sorry for the soapbox. The image of Ren standing in front of the school board must have come over me. 😉

  5. What a great question. I was pretty young when Footloose came out, so that may have been the first time I heard of it, but like you, my world would not have been impacted by book banning (when my older sister’s principal confiscated her copy of Forever, my parents went to school to make him give it back to her).

    Bonus points for using the word “foxy”!

    1. Eleanor–that’s a GREAT story about your sister’s copy of FOREVER. Your parents rock. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.

      And I try and use “foxy” every chance I can, I really do. It reminds me of the 70s and Shaun Cassidy. (And if memory serves, the little girl Ren moves in with in Footloose refers to him as “a fox” so I can’t take ALL the credit.)

        1. Joanne, it’s true. I’m hopeless. I have an uncanny memory for things (with all due respect Mr. Bacon) frivolous. JAWS takes the cake though. I could recite that movie start to finish if pressed.

  6. First of all, they are also remaking The Bodyguard. And the screenplay of the remake was written by a kid in my high school grade. What?!?!? That book is NOT old enough for a remake.

    I have absolutely no idea when I learned about banned books. It’s a good question. Though of course even now I hardly understand it. I have this vague memory of being in my elementary school library and learning that some books weren’t allowed in some schools. At the time I was probably incredibly worried that there might be some girls out there missing on on The Babysitter’s Club. But I too was one of those readers who read Forever too young and loved every second of it.

    Also, side note, I’ve never seen Footloose. Which I know is ridiculous because I love pop culture, the 80s, and dancing. LOVE. I have a friend planning a Footloose party for me because she is so horrified.

    1. A friend who plans you a Footloose party is a friend to keep. I’m jealous.

      I laughed out loud at The Babysitter’s Club comment–that sounds about right for that age. Again, it’ all relative and all about perspective!

      Now what is this about a remake of The Bodyguard?! Hello?! Is Whitney reprising her role because if she’s not, someone has some explaining to do…

      (I almost wrote My Bodyguard, another classic. Has no one remade that one? Does no one care enough to muck up that one too?)

  7. My sister is 10 years older than me, so she brought home the books she was reading in college and I read them all. She’s the one who told me about book banning, when she learned about it. It made us want to read all the banned ones. LOL! If they were banned, we reasoned, they had to be really good!
    Book banning reminds me of witch burning…hard to believe it actually happened. Personally, I would love to write a book so good some group wanted to ban it. Haha!

  8. Hi Erika,

    This note isn’t in answer to your question. I just discovered this blog, and I’m so glad I did! So “hi” to you and the other debs. I love the idea of a blog that rotates bloggers every year and that helps debuting novelists get some exposure.

    I’ll be keeping up on your (plural you-all’s) posts. Vicarious anticipation, let’s call it. I know how long and arduous the writing process and then the publication process is.

    Cheers, Lisa

  9. I was raised Catholic, we had banned movies, music, books. Anything. I just had to sneak books out of the Public Library. I always snuck them back in. Have you read or seen Farenheit 451? Written by Ray Bradbury, movie by F. Truffaut mid 60’s. (Farenheit 451 is the flashpoint of paper)

    1. Hi Oma!

      Sneaking books out of the public library–oh, I can just envision it! Do you remember one in particular?

      It’s funny you should mention Farenheit 451–I want to say my husband and I downloaded on Netflix recently–and I was mightily intrigued. I have always waned to read the book, and have yet to do so. This would be the time.

  10. Honestly, I have no idea when I learned about Banned Books, so they must have slowly entered my consciousness. I do remember someone being excused from class when we read HUCKLEBERRY FINN because his or her parents didn’t approve. Actually, I think all of our parents had to sign a permission slip for us to read it in the first place.

    1. Wow, Jen. These stories are so fascinating because here we all are, voracious readers with all these experiences of banned books and reading restrictions, yet it clearly did nothing to temper our appetite. How great is that?

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