Banned Books Week

I’ve been sitting around nursing a cold for the past few days. Something has been going around, since most of my Facebook feed is sick as well. Combined with fall coming, this pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling the past few days:


In other news, it’s Banned Books Week! And it has a website! Which I’ve linked to here.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 (I had only heard about it this year) to address challenges to and censorship of books in schools, libraries, stores, etc. It’s about celebrating the freedom to read. I can totally get behind that. According to the website, the 10 most challenged titles of 2012 were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

I can understand some of these. Fifty Shades of Grey will never be a hit among Christian groups. But The Kite Runner? Beloved? Yes, Beloved is going to have violence and sexually explicit content. It’s about slavery. It’s about a desperate woman who commits infanticide so her baby daughter does not have to live the life of a slave. Slavery was horrific. To be portray it as anything but would be disingenuous at the very least.

I don’t understand the rationale behind challenging these important texts (talking about Beloved and the like here, not Fifty Shades). I think, as humans and as a society, it is essential to be exposed to a variety of texts that do not shy away from difficult concepts. They help us grow, help us remember, and help us learn.

Here are some banned books that are now regarded as classic American novels. Some of these may surprise you:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951
Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970

What ‘banned’ novels have you read? I remember buying Lady Chatterly’s Lover at a used book sale and flipping through it to find the dirty parts (there were many).



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