Tag Archives: banned book week

Book Chat Collective: Banned Books


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The Book Chat Collective is a new meme hosted over at An Old Flame. I really like the chat about books that goes on over at An Old Flame so, even though I’m not generally a meme person, I thought this would be a really fun one to participate in.

The idea is that every week there’s a different book related topic for bloggers to blog about. You are asked to visit two other blogs (or more) and comment on their opinions (whether you agree or not) before you post your own opinions on your blog. If you want you can refer to what other bloggers have said and this helps keep the chain going.

This week’s topic: We’re at the tail end of Banned Books Week. Is there ever a reason, in your opinion, to rightfully ban a book?

Well instantly when I read the topic I thought no. I’m a big believer in freedom and I think people should be able to choose for themselves what they read or not. But then I read An Old Flame’s post on the topic, and I thought about the bad situations which could come about from a book. I disagree with her actual example, I think Salaman Rushdie might have known how controversial his book could be- and the publishers probably did too, I mean his life is at risk because of he but he could have chosen not to publish it. I can see though how books could pose some risk, and maybe that readers, publishers or even writers might not foresee how much risk. Should these be banned? Maybe, in the interests of public safety, but to say that grindes with me.
On a smaller level I can understand parents wanting to ban certain books in schools, especially as they might be compulsory reading. I think you should let your teenager read whatever they want, and maybe just make sure they understand what they are reading, but while you can advise your kids against something which is their own choice you can’t advise them against reading something that is compulsory reading for school- they have to read it whether they feel comfortable with it not. I can completely understand parents wanting to ban those sort of books from school reading lists, but I don’t think access to them should be completely banned- it’s better maybe to explain why you don’t think your kids should read the book to them and make their own decision. However in that situation I think it should be done on a case by case basis rather than banning a book from all school reading lists. Let the parents know what they’re children are reading and give them a chance to object if they want to, so you’re not giving their kids something to read that the parents don’t think is right.

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Banned Book Week


Book burning

Image via Wikipedia

I thought that seeing as it’s banned books week a musing about banned books would be appropriate (and, well, I haven’t updated in the last week, so it’s about time).  Now I’m sure everyone would be talking about the top 10 most banned books…and I will too but when looking around I also came across a list of less obvious banned books, the ones you wouldn’t guess I suppose.

I wanted to start, though with my general opinion on banning books, before I go into more specifics. I am totally against banning books. I can admit that a parent may not think a book is suitable for heir child, and sure if that’s the case don’t let your kid read it.Just don’t prevent others from reading it. Every child is different and what some kids can’t cope with might be standard reading material for another kid. Yes, some issues are difficult to read about, but isn’t it better to be exposed to them through a safe medium of reading rather than in real life. I have heard of Junk by Malven Bragg being banned before. I can understand why, there are some uncomfortable scenes of drug taking, prostitution and it’s consequences, but, and this is important, it doesn’t glamourise drug use. It shows the real effects. I doubt very much anyone has decided to try drugs as a consequence of reading Junk, if anything the opposite is probably true. Possibly this can’t go for all books but it all goes towards knowledge, and I would rather my teenager (if I had one!) was reading about certain things than doing them, just like I was as a teenager. Really it has a lot to do with how the reader can review what they read. How they can criticise it and not believe all they read. If they can make the decision for themselves it’s much better, and truer than being told.

Anyway onto the ‘traditional’ list. This one is taken from The American Library Association and show the top 10 banned books of 2009.

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

I can only really talk about what I’ve read. So lets start from the bottom (just to mix things up a bit!). I read The Chocolate War a few years ago, and can barely remember it. This is the sort of banned book I love to laugh at because it teaches good stuff. I mean yeah, it may have offensive language and some sexual content (neither of which particularly stick with me, in fact I can’t even remember any sexual scenes) but it anti-bullying and pro free-choice. Maybe what people don’t like is the free-choice element…I mean if their kids can’t choose what books to read surely they aren’t able to competently choose how to lead their lives!

The Color Purple. I do actually remember sexually explicit bits in this one. However again it’s all about the message, this time an anti-racism one.

My Sister’s Keeper well where do I start. I love this book. Ok fist things first can someone point out the homosexual content in this book? I can’t remember any homosexual content. Even if it is there that’s the most homophobic pile of crap I have heard of. I can understand not wanting your kids to read about sex, or violence or drugs, but why is reading about a character who is homosexual any worse than reading about a person who is straight. Do people think it’s going to turn their children gay?! Or is it just that they don’t want their children to have a balanced view of people? They want them to grow up with the same stereotypes they have? It totally doesn’t fit with books being banned for being racist either- obviously being discriminatory of homosexuals is nothing like the same thing. Oh it makes me mad! I also see no sexism- and oh it’s just the same thing again of complaining of racism with one hand and being homophobic with the other. There is sexual content and violence but both are very mild as I remember.

Twilight I hate this book it should be banned so nobody has to suffer. Lol only joking. I wouldn’t call it sexually explicit…maybe the later ones (I haven’t read Breaking Dawn) are a bit suggestive but really isn’t it meant to be all virginity and purity and waiting till you’re married?

To Kill a Mockingbird. To call this book racist is stupid. It’s anti-racism. it shows racism but it also shows that it shouldn’t be that way. People are stupid.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yeah I get this, the drugs, the sex, I can understand parents not wanting their kids to read it. Still it’s a fantastic book.

I have read Catcher in the Rye too, but it was quite a long time ago and hasn’t stuck with me.

My unusual banned books list comes from yahoo news:

“Captain Underpants”

Some folks had their underwear in a bunch over this children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. The “Captain Underpants” series — about two fourth-graders and their superhero of a principal — was one of the top 10 most frequently banned and challenged books for 20022004 and 2005. The books were said to contain offensive language, to be sexually explicit and to be anti-family.

“The Lord of the Rings”

J.R.R Tolkien’s book was burned, not in the fires of Mount Doom, but outside of a church in Alamogordo, N.M., in 2001 because it was viewed as “Satanic.”

Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary

When it comes to banning books, even the dictionary gets no respect. The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was pulled from the shelf of a school in Menifee, Calif. The offending term in the dictionary? “Oral sex.” The entry references of the dictionary also included cunnilingus and fellatio, which were not cited as the reasons for pulling the dictionary off the shelf. Merriam-Webster has been publishing language reference books for more than 150 years. They were bound to offend someone along the way.

“Fahrenheit 451”

Could a book about censorship really be banned? Absolutely. Enter “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The book has been banned by the Mississippi School District (1999). It’s also No. 69 on the American Library Association’s list of top banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2009.

Harry Potter series

One of the most surprising banned books sits at the No. 1 spot on the ALA list. It’s not even a book. It’s the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is to teens what “Star Wars” was to an entire generation of now-40-somethings. The series has been challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint. The series is No. 1 on the ALA’s most challenged book list for 2000 to 2009.

“The Grapes of Wrath”

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is not just another classic on the list. The book was originally banned in California due to obscenity, but the catalyst behind the banning was based more in embarrassment: The people in the region did not like how their area and the workers’ situation was portrayed in the novel.

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”

Most parents of kids under 5 have seen Eric Carle’s art accompanying the book by Bill Martin. The Texas Board of Education banned the book, in January 2010, because it thought the book was written by the same Bill Martin who penned the nonchildren’s book “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.”

“James and the Giant Peach”

Author Roald Dahl is no stranger to being banned. His book “The Witches” is on the ALA’s 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990 to 1999 for its depictions of women and witches. But what about James and his peach? Was there witchcraft at work? James was disobedient and there was violence in the book.

American Heritage Dictionary (1969)

The American Heritage Dictionary of 1969 was also banned in 1978 from a library in Eldon, Mo., because of 39 objectionable words. The dictionary continued to cause trouble as far away as Alaska, where it was banned by the Anchorage School Board in 1987 for its inclusion of slang words, including “balls.”

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have always held a precarious place in children’s literature. On one side, readers have fairy-tale purists who lament the morals lost in fairy tales that have been too cleaned up. Others object to any violence in fairy tales. A couple of California school districts found a whole new reason to ban Grimm’s Fairy Tales in1989: misuse of alcohol. Little Red Riding Hood’s basket for her grandmother includes wine. Maybe it wasn’t a California red.

I’ve only read 2 of these but thought the list was interesting anyway. James and the Giant Peach I read so long ago but most of the complaints on that can be ascribed to most Dahl books, books which thousands of kids have enjoyed without any ill effects. In fact in ways Dahl is very moral. He hates spoilt, cheeky, rude, bratty kids. The good kid always wins out. Look at Matilda, Charlie, and James himself. Yes he was disobedient but only towards adults who deserved it (and he didn’t try to poison his aunts like George did to his Grandma!).
And Harry Potter. Well what can I say. As a giant fan of Harry Potter I’ve always been incensed by the anti-Harry ‘parade’. I’ve visited a few anti-Harry websites, finding most have no real foot to stand on seeing as they don’t seem to have actually read the book. Some even quote The Onion as a serious reliable source! Whether they’ve read the book or not though, Harry Potter, yes, is a wizard, but he’s far from evil for it. In fact the book’s key theme is the power of love- a power that is greater than any magic. It’s about friendship, about the battle of good against evil- you could even draw parallels with The Bible. It’s far from a book which inspires hate and dark magic.
I could go on but I think this post is long enough already…and soon it will be turning into a real rant. I suppose we can rest in the hope that events like Banned Book week give, and at least be content that book burnings are rare- because I couldn’t even be happy about the worst of books being burnt.

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