March 9th, 2018 Interview with Dr. Brenda Brown at USAO

00:00 Max: The first question we want to ask is what is your opinion on the censorship of books?

Dr. Brown: I don’t think it should occur at any administrative or institutional or government level. If it’s going to occur, it should occur at the parental level.

00:19 Robert: What is your opinion of Catcher in the Rye?

Dr. Brown: I have not read Catcher for quite a while. I think it’s fine. Go to your local McDonald’s, sit in a booth for ten minutes, see what you hear. I was just at Buckle the other day, or Packs, one of those stores with my daughter and there was a shirt and a pair of shorts that just said, “Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it”. I was thinking, if people can wear this and it’s not obscene anymore because obscenity, you guys have probably discussed this, is based on the community, then it’s really hard to determine what should be censored and what shouldn’t be censored.

01:05 Max: What can you tell us about the controversy surrounding Catcher in the Rye?

Dr. Brown: There is some language, and there’s a lot of rebellion. I’m not a real good person to ask about it in term of, I think that’s what literature is supposed to do. Is make us ask questions. Make us a little uncomfortable. Is to make us question what we think of as the status quo. In terms of specifically Catcher, I think it made a lot of people uncomfortable it’s a novel of initiation. It’s a novel of journey into adulthood. Especially when it was published. What year was it published?

Max: 1951.

01:53 Dr. Brown: Oh, I was going to say ’52. At that time period, after the war, we were wanting to go back to normal, everything was going to be great for, especially, white Americans, right, and so we really didn’t want that kind of ‘nonsense’ raising its ugly head. Interesting, also in the 1950’s we have Elvis, who can only be shown below the waist when he’s gyrating his hips and we really did everything we could to cling to this ideal Happy Days model at that time period. So, like Elvis, like even the Beatles were starting to come out, there’s rumblings of another set of morals, another questioning. There’s rumbles of the late 60’s to come. I think the dominant society very much did not want that to happen.

02:54 Robert: Do you think that cultural lag influences the banning of Catcher in the Rye, and have you heard of any notable bannings of the book?

Dr. Brown: I haven’t but I didn’t go back and research. Absolutely the cultural. Will it be banned as much today? No. We’ve changed to be much more inclusive. Doesn’t mean we’re great, there’s still a lot of books that are banned, but I think we’ve come a long way since that point. We are opening doors to a lot of different peoples and a lot of different discussions and a lot of different lifestyles. In some ways, that has made those people who want to ban books more vehement about banning because “look at what’s happening to our society, it’s becoming worse and worse, we have fewer morals”, and so it’s ironic that the very fact that we are including more texts also threatens a lot of people.

04:03 Max: This question is mostly to get a sense of how known the instance of banning we’re researching is. Have you ever come across any mention of Catcher being banned in Tulsa, Oklahoma?

Dr. Brown: No. A lot of the bannings that I hear about are out of Tennessee. Tennessee and Missouri are probably the two biggest states. Again, you guys may have already researched this, but Tennessee and Missouri get a really bad rep. I will also say this, some time after I graduated I spent my first year teaching a prep school in Fort Worth, so it was ninth through twelfth, and they were reading… Now I can’t think of it. What is that book where it’s an institution – it’s even better known as a movie. Where they think he’s crazy and he goes in…

Robert: A Beautiful Mind?

05:02 Dr. Brown: No, no. Go back in time… I want to say Steinbeck. Anyway, the books I taught at that school I never would have chosen for that age and this was an Episcopalian school, no problem. And then, I could hear that same year, the year after, we have those issues. I think there’s also a correlation between rural, even though you’re talking about Tulsa, I think rural schools and this other school I was talking about, it’s a more rural school, because they have more control it’s more tight. I think you see a lot more banning there and you probably don’t hear about it. If I hadn’t had a couple of students from there…

Max: That’s all the questions that we’ve prepared, is there anything you want to tell us offhand?

06:04 Dr. Brown: No… I just think that the banning of books goes along with a lot of the propaganda out there today that there’s some kind of ideal way and one way to see the world and view the world and one kind of people that should dominate the world and it all kind of goes together unfortunately, politically, socially, religiously, philosophically.