Celebrating Banned Books

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September 24-October 1 is banned books week, encouraging everyone to take a stand for the right choose what to read, even bad books, and maybe especially even badder books. According to the ALA (American Library Association) the three main reasons books are challenged are:

  • Too sexually explicit
  • Offensive language
  • Unsuited to any age group

So who decides the criteria for this? Naturally, the group doing the challenging. All kinds of groups have tried to ban books over the years. Nazis. Fundamentalists of all types–think Salman Rushdie with a price on his head. PTAs. Any organization who feels they have the moral authority to decide for the rest of us what we should or shouldn’t be allowed to read. 

I decided to do a quick Google search of books that have been challenged or banned over the years. So a quick run-down of some of my favorite banned books. Not all of these are currently under fire, although they’ve all made some list at some time: 

Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger. No surprises here. This is probably the most oft banned American book of them all. Clearly, horny adolescent boys have no place in literature. 

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Makes sense. Someone might get the idea that the justice system isn’t always just.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker. Incest. Lesbians. A little reefer. Need I say more? 

Anything by Toni Morrison. Her books seem to consistently show up on banned book lists (way to go, Toni!). The reasons? Probably, she’s just too damn good. Anyone who writes like she does must be possessed.

The entire Harry Potter Series. Wizards and witchcraft. Elves in bondage (hints of S&M perhaps). So what if they’ve turned an entire generation onto reading again? If they’re going to be devil worshippers, better to keep them ignorant. 

Even Christian writer J.R.R. Tolkien doesn’t escape the censor’s net. Lord of the Rings has also made some lists. It’s filled with satanic hobbits.  

Call of the Wild, Jack London. WTF! Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I read this, but seriously? Call of the Wild? Can someone please tell me what a sled dog could possibly do to upset the censors? 

Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson. Okay, I’ve never read this book, but I’m pleased to see that something Walt Disney turned into a movie is on the hit list. Apparently, it was banned in some places because of the disrespect children show adults as well as combing fantasy with reality. Obviously, whoever decided this never had children or if they did, they must have kept them bound and gagged until they turned 21. 

So, if anyone is reading this, what’s your favorite banned book and why? And thanks to the ALA who has long been at the forefront of keeping reading material available for all. 

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5 thoughts on “Celebrating Banned Books

  1. This is a great article! I have to say that I didn’t realize that my all time favorite author in the world, Toni Morrison, has books on the banned list. sigh. I guess her absolutely brilliant story telling is a bit much for “those who decide.” Now that I know “Call of the Wild” has been banned, I feel I absolutely must read it!!

  2. Even more offensive are the ones edited or rewritten for moral consumption. Even the Bible gets in here. The most recent one that felt like a kick in the gut was the new edition Huckleberry Finn with the word nigger replaced with the word slave. Bob

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