25 September 2011

A Way to Celebrate Banned Books

My life is not currently conducive to large projects, so Banned Books Week is not being celebrated in my house the way it usually is: no giant stack of reading material, no banned book a day reviews being posted, no giveaways. But I certainly don't want to let the week go by without doing something here on the blog! So here are a few of the banned/challenged books I've reviewed since I started blogging:

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Inferno by Dante Alighieri 
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I was going to give you the reasons these books were challenged or banned, but instead, here's a quick rundown on the top ten reasons books have been challenged/banned in the past 20 years:

#1 Sexually Explicit: Yeah, this one shouldn't come as much of a surprise. If you are looking for sexually explicit books, check out: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, and Native Son by Richard Wright. And you thought I was going to say Madonna's Sex book. :)

#2 Offensive Language: Heaven forbid our teens read the word "shit". Or damn, fuck, hell, bitch, and so on and so forth. I mean, it's not like they've ever heard them before. Or like, use them and stuff. If you are looking for naughty language books, you should really read: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Those are some serious potty-mouths.

#3 Violence:  There are some really gory, flesh-ripping stories here ladies and gentlemen. For nasty, bloody, evil violence, you should read: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. It doesn't get any more violent folks.

#4 Unsuited to Age Group: This one is a serious joke in my opinion because I believe it impossible to determine "appropriateness" based on age. I know 10 year olds who are super mature and 49 year olds who need help crossing the street. If you want to read a book that is unsuited to the age group, go ahead and pick up any novel classified as "Young Adult". Apparently almost all of them are not appropriate. If you want specifics, try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

#5 Occult: Did you know that if you read Harry Potter you are being indoctrinated into Satanism? Well, here are some other stories that will have you worshiping the devil and like drinking blood and uh...being all anti-God and stuff: Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. Yeah, those books are hardcore satanic manifestos.

#6 Homosexuality: As I am sure you know, any book that features a gay character is seriously harming us as human beings. And if there's some hot boy-on-boy action, well, let's just say it melts our minds. But did you know that even a book like My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is destroying the heteronormative awesomeness of our society. It must be really subtle, though, because I don't really remember the "homosexual agenda" of that particular story...

#7 Religious Viewpoint: Our first example culprit here, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, shares something in common with many of the books challenged for readon #7: homosexuality. Books featuring homosexual characters get a double whammy in the reason department. Then we have the other double whammy books: those like Twilight by Stephenie Meyer which get to be cataloged under both the occult and religious viewpoint.

#8 Nudity: Nudity on the page is just dirty. When authors are describing those svelte stomachs and bobbling breasts, a little piece of our souls die. Or, you know, when a child is dreaming about flying naked like in In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. Cuz that's like dirty and naughty.

#9 Racism: The Racism category has me wondering if anyone who challenges these books really knows what racism is. The most challenged book in this category is probably The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which features a black man and a white boy who are friends. Yep, really racist. Then there's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Wait, Maya Angelou is racist? You have got to be kidding me.

#10 Drugs: Clearly, the best idea here is to ignore that drugs exist. By doing so, we can eliminate drug use from our culture. So be sure you don't read Crank by Ellen Hopkins, or Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

For more information on banned books, including who is challenging where, visits the American Library Association.


  1. Makes me want to rip out my hairs. People need to freaking CHILL OUT. I just listened to Of Mice and Men, and figured it would probably work well for RIP! No wonder I blocked it from my brain when I read it in high school.

  2. Love this post. I love to hear about all the "trashy" and "inappropriate" books I "shouldn't" be reading so I can rush right out a pick up a few to read. Ah, contrarians read all the best books. ;-)

  3. Oh yeah, because when I think about what I remember from To Kill a Mockingbird, it's all the bad language.

    Seriously, people??

  4. I remember asking the same question about My Sister's Keeper in a blog post I did for banned books week last year. Another blogger reminded me that the mother (Sarah?) had a sister who was a lesbian. Shock Horror!

  5. Kind of interesting to see how many of the titles you list are written by groups considered 'other', be they African America, GLBTQ, or other groups...

  6. I can't recall anything in My Sister's Keeper that meets that description. People will find anything to complain about. I wish they would direct their energy to something more productive. Some books might not be suitable for all readers or ages, but maybe if they just gave them a rating like movies they could do away with banning, then the suggestion would be there at least for who it was and was not intended for.

  7. #standing ovation* Fantastic post! LOVE IT! You did a great job here picking out the worst of the worst offenders.... ;)

    My Sister’s Keeper? I am racking my brain... I have nothing...

  8. It always astounds me that people can be so close minded.

  9. I loved this post, and the way you not only broke it down for us, but gave us specific instances on why these books were banned. I am the type of person who doesn't tolerate books being banned very well. We should all be free to let our eyes rove over any book that we want without being interfered with. I think I am going to try to read at least one banned book this time around. Fantastic post today!

  10. It's not stopping at the local library either. Or the school. Christian activists are trying to rip books out of existence all together by threatening small publishers too. The big guys can stand up to them but a boycott or threats can really get to the small ones.

    Case in point?

    Orange Cat Publishing, which does mainly e-books so far, started in august of 2011. They offer mainly free books, which as they say on the site, you can donate to the author if you like. So hardly a vast money making empire.

    A book coming out next month, October of 2011 called Keeley Thomson: Demon Girl was leaked a few weeks ago and became a bit popular with kids who are passing copies around. (Not a huge thing, since it will be free anyway...)

    Except that some Christian parents object to almost everything in the book. Occult theme, homosexuality and "Anti-Christian Bias" some adult themes too.

    Here I thought we were almost done with censorship. I was wrong.

  11. This is a fantastic post. In fact, I think you've said it better than I ever could have.

  12. Great post!! Informative and totally makes your points in a fun way.

  13. Thanks for the recommendations! Great post.

  14. Trisha I love the list format that you used in this post. I've always considered doing a class assigment around banned book week, but always manage to get sidetracked. I don't figure that 7th grade is too young to bridge a discussion. I'm just a little fuzzy on the how to. Especially with a group of such reluctant readers.

  15. Fantastic post! I love the recommendations.

  16. I like everything about this post except that Jim from Huck Finn is a grown man with kids, not a boy.


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