These Books Have Been Banned. Really?

Yesterday, I read an article on the Christian Science Monitor website, it’s a list of 20 (Surprisingly) Banned Books. The CSM has a really terrific book section. I highly recommend it, I get a lot of reading ideas there.

The books referenced aren’t universally banned but have been banned in certain states at one time or another. Banning any book is abominable. For the record, I don’t consider librarian discretion to be the same as banning books. There are books that simply don’t belong in an elementary school library or the children’s section of a library. The books listed in the CSM article were banned from reading in schools for what are, to me, ridiculous reasons.

“Book banning” removes the reader’s right to read, think, discriminate, reason over language, politics, social mores, etc. I have always been irked by people’s upset over the vernacular used in one of my all time favoritest books, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”  I’m sure most of you know that the word “nigger” is used throughout the book. People don’t like the “N” word. I don’t use it. I don’t like the sound of it but I understand that at the time “Huckleberry Finn” was written and the setting of the story requires the use of that word, which was commonplace in Southern states at the time. “Huckleberry Finn” is a masterwork because of how the dialogue is written. Twain wrote true to the time and place. While times and language have changed and society doesn’t approve of such language anymore; that does not mean the book isn’t worth reading. The book is an anti-slavery treatise but if the reader gets hung up on a word, the overarching theme of the novel is lost. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. But don’t ban it and deprive students of an American literary treasure.

My mom’s college copy of Huck Finn

Here are some of the books listed on CSM.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh — One of my most beloved books from childhood, I made a journal and spied just like Harriet. I was jealous that she lived in NYC where spying was way better than Lake Oswego. I have read “Harriet” a couple of times as an adult and it is still wonderful. This book was banned for setting a bad example for children teaching them to spy, lie, and swear. I should be banned as a parent, except for the lying part.

Brigid’s copy of Harriet. I don’t know where mine is.

The Dictionary – Has been banned from libraries in California because it includes sexual definitions. That’s so wrong. What third grader hasn’t gotten their jollies looking up the words: penis, vagina and masturbate? Sheesh.

Dictionaries are made of paper, not .coms
Nobody ever bans the Thesaurus and they are rife with penis words!

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm — These have been banned because the original fairy tales weren’t all Disneyfied and the ugly step sisters cut off their toes to fit in the glass slipper. The wolf ate people. Nasty things happened and the tales teach readers lessons about greed and vanity and trust. I read the Brother’s Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen when I was a kid and I’m fine.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein — When I was in the 6th grade and we had to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class, almost everyone chose poems from Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” The man was a genius and his books continue to lure young readers into the joys of poetry.  “It was banned in Florida because in the eyes of other readers it promotes violence and disrespect.” You know what? Florida should be banned because it promotes violence and disrespect.

One of Brigid’s four Shel Silverstein books

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder — This was banned in South Dakota for language that offended Native Americans, I’m assuming the word “injun” comes into play. I loved this series both as a kid and as a parent reading it to my children. It’s a true story about pioneers set during the 1850s, get over it. I was struck when reading it to my girls how self-sufficient pioneer children were. Can you imagine leaving an 8-year-old in charge of the house in a blizzard and letting them light a fire and take care of the baby? I can barely do that.

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. — “The classic children’s book was banned by the State Board of Education in Texas in 2010 due to a simple mistake. A board member mixed up Martin with another author named Bill Martin who had written a book for adults titled “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.” There ain’t no cure fer stoopid.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck — I’m not surprised this book has been banned at times for “indecent content” and apparently by Kern County, California because some local politician didn’t care for the depiction of fictional residents of the county. Potential legitimate reason for banning it: it is unceasingly depressing and the final scene with the breast feeding freaked me out when I first read the book in high school.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl — Schools prefer the edited version which removed some sexual content which is an insult to everything her diary stands for. This could be my favorite reason that any book, especially this one, was challenged by an Alabama school board in the ’80s, “according to the board’s records, it was “a real downer.” Totally. The Holocaust and the millions of people hiding and being captured and tortured and murdered, total buzzkill dude.

Read this book! But keep in mind, it is a “downer”. Anne would hate to hear that, this is a book of life and living.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl — At some point this book was in a “locked reference collection” in a Colorado library because a librarian thought it embraced a “poor philosophy of life.” Yeah Charlie ya loser, life isn’t all golden tickets buddy.

Where’s Waldo by Martin Hanford — Apparently one of the drawings had a topless cartoon woman on the beach. If you find that, you’re looking too hard and should develop other interests. Potential legitimate reason for banning: Waldo looks annoying.

Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault — Some California schools banned this book because wine was in Red’s basket for her grandmother. Hmmm, ironic.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — I refuse to discuss this. I am distressed that I can’t find my copy of TKAM. Brigid read it last, perhaps she knows. I have looked in Annie’s room because it is her favorite book but it’s not there, either. Ladies??

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell — I think we all know the problems here and how ridiculous they are for yet another great American novel.

1024 pages of amazing. Read it, it’s even better than the movie and that’s a REALLY good movie. Rhett Butler is a hottie.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer — This book has been banned over the years for sexual content. Here’s a quote and you’ll understand why, “Thi clerk was cleped hende Ncholas. Of derne love he coude and of solas.” Leaving this book in a school library would be exactly the same as letting them have “50 Shades of Gray”.

53 replies to “These Books Have Been Banned. Really?

  1. That’s a great list.
    Canterbury Tales should be banned because it’s impossible to read. (not because of content.)

    My Shel Silverstein poem is “Listen To The Mustn’ts”

    1. I remember reading Canterbury Tales in high school and the honors English teacher had to walk us through every line. Maybe don’t ban it, translate it 🙂

      I think everyone loved the poem “Sick” when i was a kid. I imagine it is still a favorite.

  2. Book banning makes my blood boil. All of the books you’ve mentioned are treasures, except for the dictionary (What on earth are they thinking with banning a dictionary?) and, let’s be honest, “Where’s Waldo?” haha!
    GREAT POST!!!!

  3. That’s crazy that all of those have been banned. So dumb. In 6th grade I had to memorize a Shel Silverstein poem too! Maybe we were in the same class? 😉

        1. I was wondering the same thing.. I just started following him! I hope he comes back. Perhaps he caught a case of the manic delete button– from which I suffer dearly as well.

  4. You know, when people ban books, it has the complete opposite effect from the one intended: it makes people (at least, it makes me) want to read those books to find out exactly what’s so offensive about them. If you’re worried about content with children, have a rating system, or some sort of warning codes that indicate potential sexual content or whatever. But banning books altogether is ridiculous and draconian.

  5. *@!&%ing censorship is for the $#@T*ing wacko ^@#!&**&%^ nut bag, fanatical $%$@$%. Just my narrow minded opinion 🙂

  6. Banning Laura Ingalls is 50 shades of wrong (see what I did there? I wonder if that book is on the shelf…).
    My jaw dropped when I saw Anne Frank on the list. Ridiculous.
    I read somewhere that Wuthering Heights was originally banned and burned because of “incestual overtones”. Please…
    If it’s worth burning, it’s probably full of genius ideas. This is why they burned witches.

  7. I finally read the Canterbury Tales unabridged when I was in graduate school. If it hadn’t had the sex parts I would have for sure lost my mind. Cannot believe Harriet the Spy was banned. Lame-o.

  8. Agree with everything you write! It’s just ridiculous. They ban these books but they don’t ban these splatter and violence movies at the cinema, right? F****** hypocrites. Also, the books you mention are very important works and bring some good points across. xx

        1. the internet is an amazing thing. I can sit and chat with a girl in a train station in Munich from my office in the U.S. I know that’s not news but sometimes it just hits me how amazing that is.

          1. Yeah, it is amazing. Also, my internet connection is way faster than it usually is with this surfstick I’m using… but hey, there live 3 ? million people in not such a big surprise. Also, they are all wearing Bavarian clothes because of the Oktoberfest… it’s soo weird 😉

          2. Yeah… these people are just so insane 😉 and drunk… actually I saw someone lying on the floor in the middle of this station. Just like that. His friends stood around him and ignored his behaviour :s
            They actually say it’s not a good idea to go to the Oktoberfest after TWO PM because it’s already that nasty around this time… but luckily none of these guys were on my train here… that would have been even worse because drunk Germans on German trains tend to do the …impossible possible 😉 talking about body liquids, etc 😉

  9. Banning these books (and the dictionary!) strikes me as cruel, unusual and ignorant. I share Kathy V’s opinion, banning just makes you curious and want to read that book more. Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a fatwa against Salmon Rushdie did wonders for the sales of “The Satanic Verses”. Several of my friends purchased it, but I don’t know a single person that actually read it.

    1. I’m with you. And the funny thing or the ironic thing about the whole Satanic Verses thing (is Rushdie still in hiding over that?) was apparently it’s not even that great of a book. If the Ayatollah and just kept his Ayatollah hole shut, no body would have even noticed that book.

  10. Brilliant, and utterly devastating. to think that people with authority over others can be stuck in the Dark Ages, alongside book-burning Nazis, the Inquisition and all the other thought police.

    Sounds as though the people who make these decisions are a mix of politically correct do-gooders with no sense of humour or proportion, and sexually repressed middle- aged right wing men who’ve never stirred out of their little communities and don’t know anything about Life, Thought, Art, Psychology, Common sense,… I won’t go on!!!!
    Joy-killers all of ’em….

    1. I agree and it is such a display of ignorance, as well as a belief that people are not intelligent enough to form their own opinions. And the politically correct angle on all of it is silly.

  11. Be still my Librarian’s heart on this post.. you rock lady. I have a copy of The Complete Poetry and Prose of Geoffrey Chaucer on my nightstand!! Haa dork I know but it is so rich….
    Equal access to ALL information..

    1. I’ve been waiting for you!!! I had a feeling you would like this one. Yes you are a dork but my kind of dork. What frustrates me also and I touched on it is that there is discretion as to what books belong where and there is banning, which is just ignurent.

      1. Yeah sorry, if you do ❤ on the book of faces it makes a heart for you.
        I used to have the movie on video, I haven't seen it since it was on TV at Xmas. I love it!

  12. Banning books makes me sick. I am proud to say that I teach To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Song of Solomon and 1984. All are on the banned/challenged books list. Oh, and Gone With the Wind is still one of my all-time favorite novels. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you teach those books. I had to study them when I was in high school….no reasons kids today should get off so easy! I need to study more about Steinbeck the man to figure out why his books were such “downers” 🙂

  13. I’m most upset about Anne Frank, it made being a young girl real, and it made the holocaust understandable. It made us all cry in class, bc we felt the impending doom, she ended it almost like she knew she would die. that book was amazing. To Kill .A Mockingbird too! These kids don’t even know what they’re missing

  14. Not sure what we would have read at Brentwood without many books on that list. 9th grade English was all about Chaucer, 10th grade I believe was TKAM and I know that The Grapes of Wrath was part of 11th grade. Great read as always! Can you tell I’m playing catch up?

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