What do “Frankenstein,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Looking for Alaska,” “Little Bill” and “”Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread” have in common?
They were all either challenged or banned books at some point in their published history.
This week marks the 35 annual Banned Books Week, which was launched in 1982 by the Banned Books Week Coalition “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries,” according to its website. The Coalition aims to educate the public about the dangers of censorship.
The books mentioned above were banned at one point for a variety of reasons. ”Frankenstein” was banned in apartheid South Africa for being “objectionable and obscene”; “’Grapes of Wrath” was banned in its real-life setting of Kern County, Calif. for “libel and lie” because some in the county felt the book incorrectly portrayed how town officials helped immigrants; “Looking For Alaska” was challenged in America last year for “a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to ‘sexual experimentation’”; “Little Bill” was challenged in America simply because of its author, accused rapist Bill Cosby; and frequent banned books author Chuck Palahniuk’s latest adult short story collection got challenged, among other things, for “being disgusting and all around offensive.”
There isn’t much in American literature that has’t been banned at one point. "The materials that are challenged and banned say something about the human condition,” Judith Krug of the American Library Association told NPR in 2008. "They're not afraid of the book; they're afraid of the ideas.”
With that in mind, we thought we’d write about some of our favorite banned books. Let us know your favorite in the comments!
- “I love Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman. I'm also a fan of 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'Invisible Man.'” — Sierra Juarez, social desk intern
- "’1984’" and "’Slaughterhouse Five.’" —Rob Villalpando, breaking news editor
- “’The Grapes of Wrath’ was one of the few assigned books in high school that i truly loved, and it got me started on Steinbeck. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time.” — Jake Harris, social content producer
- “‘Catcher in the Rye’: Truly one of the only books with a ‘best if read by’ date. Read it in one day when I was 17, at a hotel on summer vacation while my family went out and did things. First, you get Holden; later, he teaches you what a miserable punk you are.” — Eric Webb, social media editor
- “‘Fahrenheit 451’: My English teacher in high school used this book to teach us about phallic symbols.” — Eric Webb
- “’Howl’: A classic of gay literature. I bought my copy at the bookstore near Brigham Young University in Provo on the way to hike in Moab. The clerk and I exchanged conspiratorial glances.” — Eric Webb
- “‘Catch-22.’ Hilarious, then depressing, then hilarious again, but really depressing in hindsight. But mostly hilarious.” — Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera, night mobile/breaking news editor
- “Speaking of hilarious and depressing: ‘Slaughterhouse 5.’ This brilliant sentence is one of the reasons this anti-war book was banned: ‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the zipper on the fly of God Almighty.’ Silly book banners.” — Tom Labinski, metro editor
- “‘I Am the Cheese’: In case you were wondering just how paranoid and whacked out the 70s were, this Robert Cormier hunk of bonkers is here to tell you.” — Joe Gross, pop culture writer
- “I could talk about this all day. ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Howl,’ ‘Leaves of Grass.’ Also Neil Gaiman's ‘Neverwhere.’ ‘Looking For Alaska.’ Also Anne Frank’s ‘Diary of a Young Girl.’ Also, ‘HARRY POTTER.’” — Katry Psencik, web producer