Ex Libris Catch-22: Military Books Impossible to Ban

Two more literary works have been added to the growing list of books being banned by The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District school board in Palmer, Alaska. Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War classic The Things That We Carried and Joseph Heller’s World War II satirical Catch 22 are the most recent victims of the rogue school board.

Every year, Banned Book Week is sponsored by Barnes & Noble Booksellers, where literary fans can enjoy their most beloved banned classics. An oddity of the banning organizations is that most of the targeted titles are written by war veterans themselves, based upon their personal experiences.

Profanity and sexual references are cited as reasons for banning The Things We Carried, O’Brien’s 1990 collection of short stories about camaraderie and sacrifice of troops and let young adults know that not all problems have cut-and-dried solutions.

So why did Heller’s 1961 classic not survive the cut? The book taught high school students lessons in satire and social commentary, but it seems that Catch 22 is too reflective of the times in which it was written.

“There are a handful of racial slurs, the characters speak with typical ‘military men’ misogyny and racist attitudes of the time. There are scenes of violence both hand to hand and with guns, and violence against women,” said Mat-Su School Board President Tom Bergey.

Bergey says that the ban is not a “full ban” and that the books will remain in the library; however, students will not have access to them.

Wasila, Sarah Palin’s hometown, is located in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.

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