by guest contributor Amber Hinds
A couple of weeks was Banned Book Week, an annual event sponsored by a variety of library, bookseller, publisher and journalistic associations. It’s usually held during the last week of September and was created as a celebration of the freedom to read and, as the ALA website states:
highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
The moment you walk into our house, it is apparent that we are enthusiastic readers. There are bookcases stuffed with books and piles of books in nooks and crannies all throughout the house. So, when browsing the Banned Book Week website, I wasn’t surprised to see many of my favorite books on the frequently challenged list. There’s some I might understand, like The Catcher in the Rye, some I’ve heard of as being challenged, like the Harry Potter series, and some that just made me scratch my head (Where’s Waldo?, really?). After looking over the lists, I thought it might be fun to share with you some on my favorite “banned” books.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald: challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of “language and sexual references in the book.”
The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger: this book has been challenged so many times I couldn’t list them all, mostly for language and sexual content; I did enjoy the Dorchester District 2 (Summerville, SC) school board’s reason for removal: because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”
1984, by George Orwell: challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell’s novel is “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.”
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley: it makes promiscuous sex and drugs “look like fun.”
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote: Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, GA (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was part of a college-level English class.
Other banned books in my collection include: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, both by Mark Twain, Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, and The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende.
If you’re interested in the how’s and why’s of book banning in America, I’d like to recommend What Johnny Shouldn`t Read: Textbook Censorship in America, by Joan DelFattore, a fascinating overview of court cases related to book banning in schools and the impact a minority of parents can have on whole classes of students (the vast majority of book challenges take place in the schools by parents).
If you’re looking for something “deviant“ to read, any of these books would fit the bill, while also taking advantage of our first amendment rights. Happy reading, and try not to be too shocked by what’s between the pages!
About the contributor: Amber Hinds blogs about motherhood, the art of housewifery, and simple living on Nantucket Island at Au Coeur. She also recently started a Twitter feed of her reading list at alh0319. For a follow up piece on book censorship and parenting, read What Nora Shouldn’t Read.