UPDATE: July 26, 2007 – The ALA Banned Books Week starts September 29, 2007 and runs through October 6, 2007. Why not celebrate by reading a banned book??
I don’t believe in censorship of books. One of the freedoms we are supposed to have in the United States is the freedom of speech, and so book banning or book challenges seem to go against everything for which the United States stands. Men and women have died to preserve our freedoms. And yet, every year books are banned in this country.
Because of this, I have made a point of reading banned books. I belong to a Yahoo book group which devotes itself to reading only banned books. Additionally, Pelham Public Library’s Fahrenheit 451: Banned Book Blog has challenged readers to celebrate their freedom by reading as many banned books as they can between February 26th and June 30th.
Throughout the year, I will be updating this post by listing the books I’ve read which have been banned or challenged (not only in the US, but worldwide).
Here is my list:
1. Catch 22, by Joseph Heller –
Considered “dangerous” because of objectionable language. Banned in Strongsville, Ohio, 1972 (overturned in 1976). Challenged by Dallas, Texas, Independent School District high school libraries, 1974; Snoqualmie, Washington, 1979.
2. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker –
Considered inappropriate because of its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and human sexuality.”Challenged by Oakland, California, high school honors class, 1984; rejected for purchase by Hayward, California, school trustees.
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck –
Considered “dangerous” because of obscene language and the unfavorable depiction of a former minister. Banned in Kanawha, Iowa, 1980; Morris, Manitoba, 1982. Challenged by Vernon-Verona-Sherill, New York, School District, 1980; Richford, Vermonth, 1991.(?)
4. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie –
Banned in China.
5. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
This novel has been challenged due to its racial themes. Challenged–and temporarily banned–in Eden Valley, Minn.(1977); Challenged at the Warren, Ind. Township schools (1981), because the book “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of ‘good literature’.” After unsuccessfully banning the novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Banned from the Lindale, Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book “conflicted with the values of the community.”
6. For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway –
Banned in Spain during Francisco Franco rule for its pro-Republican views.
7. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck –
Banned by some schools and libraries in the United states for promoting “euthansia” and use of profanity from May 1983 to May 1984, and also in 1993 and 1994. This book is no longer banned.
8. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving –
Banned and censored around the United States for its stance on religion and criticism of the US government regarding the Vietnam War and Iran-Contra.
9. The God of Small Things, by Aruhdhati Roy –
Although not officially banned, I’ve included this book here because of the controversy which surrounded it in India. Roy faced an obscenity trial for her depiction of love between a Christian woman and a low caste Hindu servant. The novel included pedophilia and incest, but apparently those issues were not what made the novel “obscene.”
10. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck –
East of Eden has been subject to several attempts to remove it from library bookshelves. Called “ungodly and obscene” in Anniston, Ala., it was removed, then reinstated on a restricted basis in the town’s school libraries in 1982. Greenville, S.C., schools also saw a challenge to the book in 1991.
11. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood –
This book ranks 37th on the ALA list of the 100 most frequently challenged books in the 1990s. It was challenged recently in 2001 in Dripping Springs, Texas by a group of parents who declared it anti-Christian and pornographic. Also quite recently, the Judson School District Board in San Antonio, TX overturned a ban of The Handmaid’s Tale by the superintendent. Ed Lyman had ordered the book taken out of the advanced placement English curriculum when a parent complained it contained sexual and anti-Christian content. A committee comprised of teachers, students, and a parent had recommended the book remain in the class, but Lyman said he felt it did not fit in with the standards of the community.
12. Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak –
Doctor Zhivago was banned within the USSR until 1988 for its criticism of the Bolshevik Party.
13. The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck
Banned for many years in China because of the perceived vilification of the Chinese people and their leaders; in addition Buck herself was denounced in 1960 as “a proponent of American cultural imperialism.”
14. Candide, by Voltaire
This book was first published in 1759 and banned by the Catholic Church due to the book’s criticism of the “intolerance of Religion.” The book was also condemned and removed from bookshelves in France and Switzerland. Candide pokes fun at religion and politics and questions a “benevolent God” who wrecks havoc on the world.