Today marks the end of this year’s Banned Books Week celebration. This campaign, promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, celebrates the freedom to read and aims to address the issue of book censorship. These 10 very different books have one thing in common: they are all banned for sending powerful messages that authority figures fear will negatively influence the readers. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if a whole system is threatened by a couple of books, then perhaps the books are not the problem.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Criticized for “homosexuality, date rape, masturbation, and the glorification of alcohol use and drugs,” The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been removed from the curriculum at many high schools. Chbosky has stated that he does not want his book to be banned or challenged, but the legitimate issues that high schoolers face must be addressed and “the more conversations we have about these things, the better.”
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is a futuristic novel about a society that bans and burns books. Ironic much? The eventual burning of the Bible and some derogatory lines about Christianity are some of the most common reasons for the banning of this novel. However, it’s mostly because a novel condemning censorship doesn’t sit very well with people who want censorship.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Terabithia, the book that made your 8-year-old self-sob for days on end, is banned because of references to witchcraft and atheism, as well as some profane language. I mean who cares that this novel teaches young readers the importance of friendship and inspires them to use their imaginations, right?
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a coming of age story that follows Margaret Simon as she goes through puberty and learns about religious issues and conformity. Critics challenge this book because it features “too many periods,” which is apparently too heavy a dose of reality for some people.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
This book! How? Well, apparently it “glorifies Satan” and “encourages children to be disobedient.” But wait, there’s more! This beloved poetry collection also “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lord of the Flies, a required reading at many high schools, has been challenged for portraying people as “savage” or “primitive” when it comes down to survival. It is a violent book, but the reason it has agitated critics enough for it to be banned is that it suggests that the capacity for great evil lies within us all.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
John Green, a popular name in YA literature, is known for writing profoundly meaningful novels that pertain to everyday adolescent life. Looking for Alaska has been challenged for “offensive language” and “sexually explicit descriptions.” Green, however, believes that complaints only come from those who have failed to find purpose behind his words as “text is meaningless without context.”
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
A school district in Wisconsin banned this book because “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it?” Of course. Why not erase the systematic eradication of Native Americans from history, so that we can feel better about ourselves?
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beloved is banned for bestiality, racism and sex, as it narrates the post-traumatic effects of slavery. Much like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, opposition to this novel is proof of America’s discomfort towards confronting its history of racism and its continued effects that are still being seen today.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Last, but definitely not least, the Harry Potter series remain to be some of the most banned books. The controversy arises from wizards and witches being portrayed in a good light, which comes in direct conflict with some religious teachings. However, I think it is safe to say that banning Harry Potter has not had too much of an effect on its success.