A few days ago we kicked off “Banned Book Week” with 10 powerful quotes about censorship.
Today I’d like to share with you a few of my personal favorites that have been banned, challenged or censored over the years.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn & The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – by Mark Twain
Huck Finn & Tom Sayer have the odd distinction of being banned by those who felt Twain went too far in promoting the equality of black Americans and by those who felt the books were racist. I think it comes down to this: They are really great stories about very interesting little boys written by a man who was offended by the racist stereotypes of his time yet unable to entirely rise above them. So, basically, he was a human who was, as we all are, flawed.
In a side note, my best friend hates these books with a passion. I have never really exactly figured out why. It goes to show, I suppose, that the appreciation of anything creative is subjective!
Blubber – by Judy Blume
This powerful tale of bullying and friendship is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was written. It was banned because some believed there was too much bad behavior that occurred with no consequence. Kids might get the wrong idea, I guess. I think that’s just life. Too often those who hurt others get away with it.
The Call of the Wild – by Jack London
This story of a dog in the far north is one of my entire family’s favorites. It is beautiful and powerful, sad and exciting. There’s not a page of the whole book that doesn’t hold the readers attention. It has been banned for it’s violence among people and depictions of animal cruelty. A look at the history of the time and place the story is set in shows, though, that London was simply stating the way things were.
Cujo – by Stephen King
The book is terrifying and fabulous. In short, it’s a Stephen King novel. Does it have a powerful message for the betterment of mankind? Not that I remember. Is it a great read? Every page of it. It’s been banned for all the reasons you’d expect a Stephen King novel to be banned.
Gone With The Wind – by Margaret Mitchell
I read this book the summer before 6th grade. I was 10 years old. I’d been reading things like Little House on the Prairie and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory and, now that I was entering the oh-so-grown-up world of Jr. High I thought I should tackle something meatier. I didn’t know anything about Gone With The Wind, except that it was the fattest book on my mother’s bookshelf so I figured it would be the most impressive.
It was the first summer I failed to win the prizes from the local library’s book contest. I wasn’t concerned with quantity. It took me every bit of my vacation to get through that beast but I finished it! All these years later I still remember the feeling of being forced to consider a level of desperation where one would rip the curtains off the wall to make a decent dress or the horror of watching the city you love burn to the ground around you. It’s the first time I remember a novel truly having an effect on my worldview.
The book has been challenged for its glorification of slavery. It’s a story about southern plantations in a time when the south was fighting for the right to keep slaves, written from the perspective of a woman who’s whole world revolved around being a wealthy plantation owner. I’d say the glorification of slavery was inevitable.
The Harry Potter Series – by JK Rowling
I truly believe this series saved a generation from being semi-illiterate. In a time when people were crying, “books are dead,” kids started reading this fantastic tale of a lonely little boy who is thrown into an extraordinary battle of good vs. evil. The books are laced with powerful messages about friendship and loyalty, racism, fascism and more. Everyone went crazy for it – myself included. It’s a rare book that I find worth reading a second time but I’ve read this entire series three times and I’m heading into it again this year with my 5th grader.
It has been banned because of the pervasive theme of witchcraft. Because, apparently, magic and fantasy in children’s fiction are frowned upon by some. Hmmm… I wonder if those same people tried to ban every Disney book with a wicked witch or a magical curse. Probably. *sigh*
James And The Giant Peach – by Roald Dahl
In typical Roald Dahl fashion, this book is dark and creepy and wonderful. It’s imaginative and creative and fun. It’s hopeful and powerful and a joy to read. The Tim Burton movie version is perfect.
Why did it get banned in some places? Because apparently there are those who believe children should be sheltered from everything potentially dark and creepy.
Little Black Sambo – by Helen Bannerman
If you’ve never read this book you may be surprised by a few things. First of all, Sambo isn’t really black, as in, of African descent. He’s Indian. Second, it’s not racist. Sambo is brave and clever.
The issue was never really with the text of the story, but with the slew of pirated versions that had very racist illustrations. Modern versions of the tale with more racially sensitive pictures and verbiage in the title have become best-sellers in recent years.
1984 – by George Orwell
Every high school student in every nation on earth should read this book. If you never have, you need to go buy it and read it today. It’s that important. It will challenge everything about the way you think of government and authority; which is why it has been one of the most widely banned books around the world. There are those who don’t want the masses getting ideas about what the government tries to control. So they try to control the distribution of books like this. Oh, the irony.
A Wrinkle In Time – by Madeleine L’engle
In this powerful fantasy work a reader is forced to consider, among other things, the dangers of conforming mindlessly to the masses. Some say it’s too religious. Many conservative Christians say it twists and challenges religion. Everyone’s been up in arms about it for nearly a generation now. Usually that’s a good sign that it’s a book worth reading.
Do you have a favorite book that’s been banned or challenged? Share it in the comments!
When you’re done here, I’d encourage you to visit the official “Banned Books Week” website. You may be amazed by what you find there!
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