Early in September we set up our banned books display…which some of you may have noticed. I hope. It’s fairly modest, but definitely there. Banned books week ran from the 21st-28th. We were a little early in setting up and we’re going keep it up for a little longer in hopes that you’ll pick up a banned book to read Feed your rebel side!!
about 150 books are sitting out there in honor of banned books week because they have been banned or challenged at some point in their “life” since publication. Some were banned almost immediately upon publication, others challenged periodically through the years. Some are banned for obvious reasons while others have nearly outlandish reasons. For a few of the books on the display, we’ve provided you with the main reason for the ban or challenge…but do you want to know what got most of them on the list? You’re in luck! Here is a hefty list of books (many that we’ve got on display) and the reasons they’ve been so persecuted.
Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC in 1987. Why? Apparently people were offended by the “language and sexual references in the book”.
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Perpetually challenged since it’s publication…no fewer than 30 times in the states alone. In 1960 a teacher from Tulsa, OK was fired for assigning the book to an 11th grade English class. While the teacher was reinstated, the book was still removed from the curriculum and the school. Some of the “favorite” reasons for banning the book are: language, sexual content, ‘defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled’, blasphemous, undermines morality, anti-white, and my personal favorite: it’s a “filthy, filthy book”.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This award winner was burned by the East St. Louis Public Library in 1939 because of “vulgar words”. In 1973 Turkish booksellers and publishers were arrested and put on trial for ‘publishing, processing and selling books in violation of an order of the Istanbul Martial Law Command’, those arrested faced a month to six months jail time and had their books confiscated.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Warren, IN Township Schools challenged the book in 1981 because the book does “deep psychological damage to the positive integration process” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature”. Lee’s work is called out often, even today, for it’s language.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Along with 17 other titles, The Color Purple, was challenged by a group called ‘Parents Against Bad Books’ (super creative name, guys…). They opposed its inclusion in Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary schools, saying that the books “contain profanity and depictions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture”.
Ulysses by James Joyce
Burned in the United States in 1918, Ireland (Joyce’s own country) and Canada in 1922, and England in 1923!
Beloved by Toni Morrison
In 2006 a board member for district 214 in Arlington Heights, IL tried to get Beloved and a few other titles removed from the NW Suburban High School. She was elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision making and raised the issue for these books based on EXCERPTS she found on the INTERNET. Because everything we read on the internet is true, right?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Challenged in 1981 at the Owen, NC high school because it is “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal”. You don’t say?
1984 by George Orwell
Challenged in Jackson Co., FL in 1981 because it was “pro-communist”. I wonder if they read the book…
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Banned in France (1956-59), England (1955-59), Argentina (1959), and New Zealand (1960)…because of disturbing sexual content.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Banned in Ireland (1953), Syracuse, IN (1974), Oil City, PA (1977), Grand Blanc, MI (1979), Continental, OH (1980), and many others. In 1989 it was challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN. The reasoning: “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti-business attitude” and “He was very questionable as to his patriotism”.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Challenged in Snoqualmie, WA (1979) due to several references to women as “whores”
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Removed from classrooms in Miller, MO in 1980 because “it makes promiscuous sex look like fun”.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
In a Wisconsin survey it was revealed that the John Birch Society had challenged the novel because it objected to the words “masses in revolt”. A similar study was done in 1968 by NY States English Council’s Committee on Defense Against Censorship using NY State English classrooms. It was found that Animal Farm had landed on it’s list of “problem books” because “Orwell was a communist”….seriously?
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Burned in Nazi bonfires in 1933. Banned in Boston (‘30), Ireland (‘53), Riverside & San Jose, CA (‘60)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Banned in the Graves County school district in Mayfield, KY in 1986 because it contains “offensive and obscene passages referring to abortion and used God’s name in vain”.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
First, the June 1929 issue of Scribner’s Magazine, which ran the novel, was banned in Boston, MA. Then, it was banned in Italy (1929) because it is a painfully accurate account of the italian retreat from Caporetto, Italy. Then, burned by Nazi’s in 1933. And finally, challenged in Vernon-Verona-Sherill, NY school district in 1988 as a “sex novel”.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Challenged for sexual explicitness in Brentsville, VA (1977).
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Challenged in Columbus, OH school in 1993; the complainant believed the book contained language degrading to blacks.
Native Son by Richard Wright
Removed from Irvington High School in Fremont, CA in 1998 after a few parents complained the book was unnecessarily violent and sexually explicit.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
In 1975 five residents of Strongsville, OH sued the board of education to remove the novel, labeling it “pornographic” and charged that the novel “glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juviniles, and contains descriptions of beastiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination”. It was banned in 1978 from St. Anthony, ID’s Freemont HS classrooms and the instructor was fired (the instructor sued but a decision was never published).
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
BURNED in Drake, ND in 1973! In 1985, it was challenged in the Owensboro, KY high school library because of “foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of beastiality, a reference to ‘magic fingers’ attached to the protagonists bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: ‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty’”.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Declared “unmailable” by the U.S. Postal Service in 1940. In 1973 Turkish booksellers and publishers were put on trial and faced a month to six months imprisonment for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state”.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929 and then burned by the Nazi’s in 1933.
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Challenged as required reading in Husten Falls, NY Schools in 1994 because the book has recurring themes of rape, masterbation, voilence, and degrading treatment of women.
The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
Burned in Alamogordo, NM in 2001 outside of Christ Community Church (along with other Tolkien works) as satanic.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Burned by the Nazi’s in 1933 because of Sinclair’s socialist views. Also, banned in Yugoslavia in 1929 and in East Germany (as inimical to communism) in 1956.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover D.H. Lawrence
Banned by U.S. Customs (1929), Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), India (1959), and Canada (1960-62). Dissemination of the novel was stopped in China in 1987 because the book “will corrupt the minds of young people and is against the Chinese tradition”.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
1973, a bookseller in Orem, Utah was arrested for selling the novel. Though charges were dropped, the seller was still forced to close the store and relocate to a different city. The novel was removed from schools in Aurora, CO (1976), Westport, MA (1977), and Anniston, AL (1982) for “objectionable language”.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Though published in 1899, the novel was banished for decades because it so disturbed the critics and the public.
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Banned in: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India because of its criticism of Islam. It was BURNED in West Yorkshire, England. In Venezuela, owning or reading a copy is considered a crime punishable by 15 months imprisonment.
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
1961, the group called “Mother’s United for Decency” out of Oklahoma City, OK hired a trailer, dubbed it the “smutmobile” and displayed books deemed objectionable…including Sons and Lovers.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Challenged at Vernon-Verona-Sherill, NY School District in 1980 as a “filthy, trashy sex novel”.
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Found to be obscene by Boston, MA Superior Court in 1965.
Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
Seized by John Summers of the NY Society for the Suppression of Vice and declared ‘obscene’ in 1922.
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Banned in Boston, MA in 1927 and BURNED by the Nazi’s in 1933 becasue it “deals with low love affairs”.
I find it most entertaining that some of these books were banned or challenged when it is very nearly obvious that those complaining or challenging them had either completely missed the point of the book or had not even read it…I’m looking at you, the people who tried to get rid of 1984 because it was “pro-communist”! There are still hundreds and probably thousands of books that have been banned or challenged at some point, including children’s books, but they just didn’t make the cut on this list! Go forth, my readers, and read a banned or challenged book! Be a rebel!