Famous Banned or Censored Books
Banned Books Through the Ages
What do Shakespeare, George Orwell, Toni Morrison, Dr. Seuss, Stephen King, and Shel Silverstein have in common? No, it’s not that they have all been answers to “Final Jeopardy.” Rather, each has authored at least one book that has been on a banned or censored list.
The website Forbidden Library has compiled a list of famous banned books complete with annotations as to why a particular book or author was found objectionable. Granted, most were challenged for offensive language or explicit sexual content — which is so passé for banning books nowadays — but there were some exceptions. Here are a few of my favorite, with excerpts from the website.
- 1984, by George Orwell. Challenged in Jackson County, Florida, in 1981 because it contained “pro-communist” material. (Did I read the same book?)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Banned in China in 1931 for portraying animals and humans on the same level and letting animals “use human language.”
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this book in 1983 because it was a “real downer.” Incidentally, during the same meeting the committee also called for the rejection of the book that follows in this list.
- A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen because it propagated “feminist views.”
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. This book was placed in a locked reference collection at the Boulder Colorado Public Library in 1988 because a librarian thought it espoused a poor philosophy of life.
- A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein. Challenged at Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wisconsin, in 1985 because the book “encouraged children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” The book was later challenged at Big Bend Elementary School library in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, because some of Silverstein’s poems “glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient.”
- Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. For a short time in 1992, students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, California, received copies of Fahrenheit 451 with scores of words — mostly “hells” and “damns” — blacked out. The bowdlerization of this particular novel is ironic, of course, precisely because the book itself is about censorship.
- The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. Challenged in the Laytonville California Unified School District in 1989 because it “criminalized the foresting industry.”
- Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare. Removed from a Merrimack, New Hampshire, high school English class in 1996 because of a policy that banned instruction which has “the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.”
- Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. A teacher was dismissed for assigning this collection of short stories to her eleventh grade English class because the book promoted, among other things, “the killing off of elderly people.”
- Where’s Waldo? by Martin Handford. Removed from the Springs Public School library in East Hampton, New York, in 1993 because of a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top.
And finally …
Other Banned or Censored Books
- The Bible
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
- The Stand by Stephen King
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Considering that so many “classics” are on this list, it seems that one of the best ways for a book to become part of the western literary canon is to undergo a good boycott or — better yet — a good burning. With that in mind, it might be interesting to consider other books that are deserving of this honor. Any ideas?
My vote is Confessions of an Heiress by Paris Hilton.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Welch has been a college instructor in writing and composition for nearly six years. When he’s not teaching or playing golf, he offers advice for students seeking information about distance learning, adult education and online degrees.
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