Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TTT - Banned and challenged books

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

This week is a freebie topic, and I'm usually pretty awful at coming up with my own topic for these things. You'd think that given how much I love books and lists, I'd be good at marrying the two together, but apparently not. I dithered around with half a dozen topics, and eventually decided that it was a good opportunity to talk about books that are regularly banned or challenged in school and public libraries, particularly in the US. 

I don't know what it is about the US, but y'all love to ban you some books. Good Lord... Australia's not entirely innocent either - American Psycho is still banned in Queensland and can't be purchased or borrowed by under 18s in all other states - but the American Library Association records about 500 challenges or requests for bans each year. If you want to find out more, you can click here. As always, all images are from Goodreads. 

1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

This is STILL consistently in the top 10 banned and challenged books every year. You'd think after 50-plus years - and after the Civil Rights movement - that people would be used to its contents, but apparently not. SIGH. It's gone from being contentious for discussing rape to being contentious for using racial slurs. And look, I get it. But you can't rewrite and sanitise history. Plus, it opens up discussion opportunities in the classroom about racial inequality at the time and in the present. Which is far more valuable than giving kids a boring, politically correct book to read. 

2. Harry Potter - J.K. Rowling

This was a big one back in the early 2000s, with parents regularly complaining to librarians and teachers that the book promoted Satanism and was against family values and was anti-Christian blah blah blah. Oh my God, get the giant stick out of your arse and just be happy that your child is reading, will you? Some of the most religious people I know adore everything about this series. So quit burning it (seriously) already.

3. The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

Seriously, people?? It was already heavily edited by her father prior to publication, and people are STILL complaining about it? And before you go thinking that this was contentious a million years ago, NOPE. Last year. Apparently a parent decided that Anne being all "Huh. I have a vagina" was too pornographic for her daughter to handle. Her DAUGHTER. Yup. That happened.

4. Looking for Alaska - John Green

This one doesn't get banned because of Alaska's fate. Oh no. It's contentious because it's basically considered a "gateway drug" to lewd behaviour because it features teenagers drinking and smoking and making out and swearing. WHATEVER IS THE WORLD COMING TO??? Teenagers NEVER do any of those things in the real world, right??? *headdesk*

5. 1984 - George Orwell

Another one that falls into the "Seriously?? We're STILL challenging this??" pile. This one was banned outright in the USSR, and is still regularly challenged or banned in US schools for being pro-communist (ironic, considering it was banned in the biggest communist country on earth) or anti-government. Um. So it's anti-government, but it's still pro-government, just not the government you approve of? My head hurts. Just let your kid read the damned book already.

6. Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

So you don't want your kid reading a book about rape, I get it. But considering 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lives and considering I've heard stories of many MANY boys complaining that the raped protagonist is "whiny and should just get over herself", it's essential that books like this remain in libraries, schools and classrooms, regardless of its controversial content.  

7. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Again, I totally understand why it gets challenged. It's an incredibly violent series with some pretty horrific concepts in it. And, thanks to the movies, younger and younger kids are wanting to read them. But there are ways around it rather than just demanding that they be banned outright. I work in a primary school library, used by kids from age 6 to age 12. We have The Hunger Games series, but they're kept behind the circulation desk and are only loaned out to kids who are mature enough to handle the subject matter at the discretion of the librarian. Demanding that it be banned is an excessive reaction, especially in a high school library!

8. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

So...you want to ban a book about suicide for being a book about suicide? Um. What. Look, I get that it's serious subject matter. But teenagers need to know that their actions can have major consequences, that something that seems insignificant to them can be a huge deal to someone else. And this book shows that perfectly. 

9. Letters from the Inside - John Marsden

This one was pretty contentious in Australia back in the early to mid-90s. It's the story of the pen pal friendship between two teenage girls, one of whom is in prison and the other of whom has a seriously creepy older brother. It's pretty dark, and I can understand why people didn't want their lower secondary kids reading it. But the fact remains, sometimes family members ARE insanely creepy and you DO need someone to talk to about it, even if that person happens to be in prison. 

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Look, this wasn't one of my favourite books. I found it pretty meh, to be perfectly honest. But I can understand why a lot of teenagers adore it. It tackles a lot of difficult subjects simultaneously, including child abuse and same sex relationships, so it's understandable that parents aren't too keen on their kids reading it. But the fact remains, it's a coming-of-age novel, and every teenager will likely find SOMETHING in there that they relate to personally. 

Which of these have you read? Do you think they should be banned in schools?

K xx


  1. Wilhelmina UptonMay 27, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Great pick for a topic. I couldn't settle on one and oh well, then I decided upon a whole different type of post for today.

    The fact that so many books still get challenged every year is astonishing. I don't even know about the situation in Germany but it can't even be close to the crazy that is the US.

  2. Great topic! This sort of stuff makes me seriously mad. I don't know how much we ban things in the UK (I don't think very much) but banning things because they're real life is stupid. Real life can be really shitty sometimes and surely it's better to know that than to bury your head in the sand. Uh. Told you, makes me mad.

  3. My dream is that one day I'll write a book and someone will decide to ban it. I'd be in very good company, as you've shown here. And yes, this is just one of many ways the US sucks.

    The reason for banning Looking for Alaska confuses me. If anything, you'd think they'd see it as a cautionary tale about drinking.

  4. Wow, I nearly have read all of those books for school, here in Canada, and none of them have caused any problems, in fact they solved a lot. My peers and I included all have learned from these books, mostly because we could relate and understand them (Romeo and Juliet is hard to relate)

  5. Loved 3,6,10. As for #6, clearly what happened to the main character happens in life all the time - teens SHOULD read about it. They're already seeing videos of their peers being assaulted on youtube - why not read a book that deals with the aftermath?

  6. Oh man, SO MANY of Judy Blume's books are still getting challenged and banned. It's INSANE!

    I have to wonder if the problem is the kid reading the book or if the problem is the kid STUDYING the book and being told by someone who's not their parent what the issues and themes are within the story, things that they might not pick up on otherwise. Obviously it's not always the case as things like Harry Potter still get challenged. But it seems like it might be a contributing factor...

  7. I wonder if the relatability is part of what gets them challenged - parents don't want to admit that their kids can relate to these stories...

  8. RIGHT?!?!?! Stuff like that baffles me so much.

  9. Banning does seem to be pretty much a US thing these days. It makes me seriously mad too.

  10. The US seems to have something of a monopoly on banning books these days. We did our fair share from the 1930s until the 1960s-ish, but there's very little that's banned today. Although we DO ban quite a lot of video games because we don't have (or didn't have until recently???) an 18+ rating for video games, so they'd just get banned instead. Weird.


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