As a teenager, my family and I visited Mark Twain’s house. Between the five of us (I can’t say for sure about my parents) none of us at the time ever read any of his books. But as we we were strolling in the gift shop as families do, I picked up a button. The little red and black button with the saying emblazoned on it “Experience Freedom: Read A Banned Book.” I instantly bought it, and we’ve been together happily for over ten years now. No matter how happy, we may be this button is a reminder that books are still being banned or challenged by their content.
Remembering that little button leads me to write that this week marks Banned Book Week from September 24 to 30. The week encourages readers to read books that have either been banned or challenged. I almost forgot this week was Banned Book Week, but thanks to the daily emails from Penguin Random House for the friendly reminder! The best way for me to celebrate it would be to take a look back at banned/challenged books I’ve read so far this year, and why they’ve been banned or challenged.
1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker-The Color Purple covers 40 years of Celie’s life and her struggles as an African-American Woman living in the South.
- Graphic language
- Sexually explicit (“obscenity”)
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Rowling’s classic novel of a boy wizard attending a wizarding school has been banned and challenged for a long time. I remember as a kid (when the Harry Potter books first came out, yes, I’m that old) there was a lot of controversy with him.
- Promotes witchcraft and sorcery
3.The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie- Is the story of Junior, who decides to leave the school on his Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all white high school in a local farming town.
- Strong/vulgar language (includes the following adjectives: crude and obscene)
- Relegious Irrevance
- Sexually explicit (includes excerpts/mentions of pornography and masturbation)
4. The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan-The Joy Luck Club
covers the lives of four Chinese women and their daughters through a series of sixteen vignettes that spans generations and continents.
- Sexually explicit
- Inappropriate material
5. George by Alex Gino-George follows the story of a 4th grade transgender girl, who wants to be cast as Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web in her school play.
6. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi-I read this graphic autobiography depicting Marjane Satrapi’s childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution at the end of June when I went through a graphic novel reading spree.
- Graphic images
- Politically, racially, and socially offensive
- Graphic language
7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon-The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is an unconventional mystery novel following Christopher John Francis Boone’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog.
- Graphic and offensive language (profanity)
- Unsuited for age group
What banned books have you read this year?
Source for reasons why books have been banned or challenged comes from www.ala.org in their Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists.