Back in 1981, while I was in college, my peers and I were all atwitter about the news that a book Our Bodies our Selves, written by a women’s college collective, was being banned for documenting accurate and detailed information about female health and reproductive systems.
Of course we ran right out, bought a copy, gathered around in the student lounge and read through it.
Ever since that time, I’ve always tried to make it a point of checking out the banned book lists to find the best reading.
And I’m not alone. For the last three decades, the American Library Association has dedicated the last week of September as Banned Books Week, a time when book aficionados celebrate the First Amendment freedom to read. The week also calls attention to why it is important that we as a society encourage freedom of thought, creative exchange of ideas and the damage that can be done when thoughts are limited.
Books, whether hard copies, or ereads, have always been held precious in my family. As a young child I recall spending huge amounts of time in the library. I have imparted that to my children and now my grandchildren. Books are a valuable commodity which must be cherished and preserved, gathered and guarded.
As much as free public education is a cornerstone of our country, free access to books, regardless of their content, is important. And when that is jeopardized, the very foundation of our country is jeopardized.
And yet, even as we venture into the future’s brave new world, more and more people are trying to restrict access to books on all sorts of, and sometimes contradictory, grounds.
And while parents should censor inappropriate reading materials from small children, at what point do we decide what’s inappropriate. And if a book is banned from a library, is that unconstitutional? OR is censorship just the action of small minded people afraid of ideas and thoughts that differ from their own.
I could read Mine Kamp by Adolph Hitler and it wouldn’t make me a Nazi any more than reading Hustler would make me a male.
Censorship by individuals who fight to keep ideas opposite their own from others seems to indicate a fear that in the face of competition, their ideas won’t hold up.
To clarify that point, below are some of the most recent attempts to ban books include:
The dictionary – too many bad words.
Grapes of Wrath – adult language and situations. Isn’t that what adult fiction is all about.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. -12 states including my home state of Illinois had police associations who attempted to remove the book because it portrayed police officers as pigs. No mention was made that all the characters in the children’s book were animals. Only the pigs were an issue.
Beloved – Nothing like banning a Nobel Prize Winning author to shake things up.
Brown Bear Brown Bear: what do you see? One of the two authors had the bad luck to be named after a Marxist philosopher and it didn’t occur to anyone that there could be more than one person with that name.
James and the Giant Peach was accused of obscene and violence. I must have missed that when I saw the movie with my kids.
The Diary of Anne Frank included sexually explicit and homosexual themes. Apparently the hiding out from murder like millions of other Jews wasn’t an issue though.
Little Women – Ok. I give up.
For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. The first was banned for sexual content, and second because it was deemed pro communist. Written by the same guy who hung out in Cuba prior to Castro’s reign. And in neither case was the violence of war offensive to the censors.
Light in the Attic because it promotes disrespect horror and violence. It’s that what horror stories are supposed to do.
And A Wrinkle in Time because it’s a tale of the battle of good and evil and people didn’t want their children exposed to religious arguments. And this from the same folks who challenged Harry Potter for promoting magic which is akin to demon worship. Really, people, take a position.
And lastly, the list of the most commonly challenged books in the United States and their authors as listed by the American Library Association.
Nineteen Eighty-four (1984) George Orwell
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
All the King's Men Robert Penn Warren
Always Running Luis J. Rodriguez
American Psycho ret Easton Ellis
An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser
The Anarchist Cookbook William Powell
Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry
And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison
Annie on My Mind Nancy Garden
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume
Arming America Michael Bellasiles
Arizona Kid Ron Koertge
As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
Asking About Sex and Growing Up Joanna Cole
Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher
Black Boy Richard Wright
Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo A. Anaya
Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause
Blubber Judy Blume
The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison
The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar
Boys and Sex Wardell Pomeroy
Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson
Bumps in the Night Harry Allard
The Call of the Wild Jack London
Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey
Carrie Stephen King
The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger
Catch-22 Joseph Heller
Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut
The Chocolate War Robert Cormier
Christine Stephen King
A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess
The Color Purple Alice Walker
Crazy Lady! Jane Conly
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat Alvin Schwartz
Cujo Stephen King
Curses, Hexes and Spells Daniel Cohen
Cut Patricia McCormick
Daddy's Roommate Michael Willhoite
A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck
The Dead Zone Stephen King
Deenie Judy Blume
Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds
The Drowning of Stephan Jones Bette Greene
Earth's Children (series) Jean M. Auel
The Exorcist William Peter Blatty
The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline B. Cooney
Fade Robert Cormier
Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers
Family Secrets Norma Klein
Final Exit Derek Humphry
Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes
Forever Judy Blume
Girls and Sex Wardell Pomeroy
The Giver Lois Lowry
Go Ask Alice Anonymous
Go Tell It on the Mountain James Baldwin
The Goats Brock Cole
Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell
Goosebumps (series) R. L. Stine
The Great Gilly Hopkins atherine Paterson
Guess What? Mem Fox
Halloween ABC Eve Merriam
The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
Harry Potter (series) J. K. Rowling
Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
Heather Has Two Mommies esléa Newman
The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende
How to Eat Fried Worms Thomas Rockwell
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
It's Perfectly Normal Robie Harris
It's So Amazing Robie Harris
Jack A. M. Homes
ay's Journal Anonymous
Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George
Jump Ship to Freedom James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Jumper Steven Gould
The Jungle Upton Sinclair
Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane
Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan
Lady Chatterley's Lover . H. Lawrence
Little Black Sambo Helen Bannerman
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Mommy Laid An Egg Babette Cole
My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Naked and the Dead Norman Mailer
Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs
Native Son Richard Wright
The New Joy of Gay Sex Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
On My Honor Marion Dane Bauer
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey
Ordinary People Judith Guest
The Outsiders S. E. Hinton
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett
The Pigman Paul Zindel
Private Parts Howard Stern
Rabbit, Run John Updike
The Rabbit's WeddingG arth Williams
Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez
Running Loose Chris Crutcher
The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie
Scary Stories (series) Alvin Schwartz
A Separate Peace John Knowles
Sex Education Jenny Davis
Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
The Sledding Hill hris Crutcher
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy A. N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Song of Solomon (novel) Toni Morrison
Sons and Lovers D. H. Lawrence
The Stupids (series) Harry Allard
Summer of My German Soldier Bette Greene
The Sun Also Rises rnest Hemingway
That Was Then, This Is Now S. E. Hinton
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
Tiger Eyes Judy Blume
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller
Ulysses James Joyce
View from the Cherry Tree Willo Davis Roberts
We All Fall Down Robert Cormier
Whale Talk Chris Crutcher
What My Mother Doesn't Know Sonya Sones
What's Happening to My Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons
What's Happening to My Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters
Where Did I Come From? Peter Mayle
The Wish Giver Bill Brittain
The Witches Roald Dahl
Women in Love D. H. Lawrence
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies
Now get to the book store or local library or fire up your ereader and get started.