Category Archives: Banned Book Week

Banned Book Week: A Few More Favorites

Continuing my brief reflections on some of those books that made the 100 most banned/challenged books in 2000-2009:

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

3984393This one, especially, I always found ironic (as have many).  A book about censorship, being subjected to censorship…

I fell in love with this book, perhaps because it was one of the first books I read that horrified me.  I love books, and to have people whose job it was to burn books…. to me that was the utmost evil thing someone could do.   This was another one of those books that I read when I was in school (middle school I think), that I carried with me for a long time.  I had intended to re-read it for this week, but time was not on my side, so it remains on my To Be (Re)Read list.

What I remember about reading this book in school was how many great conversations came up around it.  It was the first that some of the kids in the class had really thought about the issue of censorship, and it led to some real thinking and reflection.

The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss

1690075This book… this one making the list surprises me so thoroughly.  As I mentioned before, the Holocaust was a subject of early interest for me, and I ran through every book that the library had on the topic that was deemed “age-appropriate,” and then moved on to others.  I own many Holocaust books, memoirs and fiction, YA, Children and Adult categories, Analytic and personal.  Part of my undergrad degree ended up being about children’s experiences during the holocaust and I seriously considered doing graduate level work on the topic.  That is to say, I’ve read a fair amount of Holocaust literature, and The Upstairs Room was perhaps one of the most gentle of them.  So to see it on the list just, confuses me.

It is the story of sisters who are hidden in an attic room by a family during the Holocaust.  It’s been a few years since I’ve re-read it, but I recall the story not shying away from the fear that the main character felt, but also trying to portray it from her vantage point, the view of a girl who is being relatively sheltered from the very real dangers that they face.

Just a few more that I see on the list and am surprised by.  But, honestly, I think any books on a list would surprise me.

I’ve been re-blogging many posts this week about Banned Book week — be sure to check out the “Banned Book Week” link in the menu bar to see them all!



Confessions of an Uncensored Childhood

A lovely personal reflection on freedom to read. Similarly, my own parents did not restrict me from reading the books that I wanted to read, and questions were encouraged!

Banned Books Week: “The Most Famous Challenged and Banned Books” Event

“Fun facts aside, Dr. Hutchings’ thesis was, “It’s never about what it’s actually about.” You have to ask the question, “Who is trying to keep what out of the hands of whom, and for what reason?” ”
A great reflection on what sounds like an excellent talk about book banning!

Hannah Reads Books

banned-books-imageIn the interest of time, instead of a book profile today, I’ve got an event to talk about! “The Most Famous Challenged and Banned Books” was a talk given by Dr. William Hutchings of the UAB Department of English at one of my local libraries. The audience was about twenty to twenty-five people of mature years. I was the youngest there by about thirty years. So, huzzah for all you older folk turning out to support the freedom to read! Dr. Hutchings teaches on British drama, but taught a special topics class on censorship last year. This event was an hour-long survey of the history of book bans, with some pretty fun stuff in there.

  • Plato wanted to keep poets out of his republic because they were liars.
  • In 1958, there was a big stink here in Alabama over The Rabbit’s Wedding, a picture book featuring a bunny with white fur marrying a bunny…

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Young Minds And Books: A Dangerous Combination?

Another great post for Banned Book Week.
“I think the question surrounding Banned Books Week and what’s happening in the schools is the same: can young people handle the difficult, even sordid truths about the human condition? ”
And “I have a question for those adults: at what point is it okay for kids to learn how to think, not what to think?” are two points that especially stand out to me!

Allison Maruska

This week is Banned Books Week, a week to contemplate the various works of literature that for whatever reason have historically been deemed too dangerous for public consumption. Where the Wild Things Are, The Diary of a Young Girl, and The Old Man and The Sea are among them. The one that surprised me the most was A Light in the Attic. Many of these books were written for young readers and placed on banned lists by adults claiming to guard the interests of said young readers. Tuck that away for later because I’m coming back to it.

Something else has happened this week, and I’m trying to decide if its overlap with Banned Books Week was planned or coincidental. In the suburb of Denver where I grew up, teachers and students from several high schools, including the one from which I graduated, are striking and staging protests against a…

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Banned Books Week: Harry Potter and the Handwritten Warnings

Wow.. I’ve never seen one of these “here is what this book is actually about” sheets taped into a book! Interesting reflection… and as always, it’s interesting to learn the way that things can differ so greatly from region to region.

Hannah Reads Books

Doesn’t that sound like a Harry Potter title? 😉 Bear with me through the Harry Potter remembrances, I do have a point.

Amazon Amazon

Over the weekend, while Banned Books Week was getting under way, I saw various blog posts listing popular and well-respected books that have been challenged. Harry Potter is usually on the list, and there have been SO many comments saying “Harry Potter? Really? Why?” and things of that nature.

If you missed the Harry Potter controversy, I envy you. (Not only) in Alabama, it was a huge deal. Parents had meetings. There were ban attempts. People wrote and read books about whether or not it was demonic or would entice children into witchcraft. (Thankfully they seem to have fallen off the radar — I can’t find the one I remember most or I would link it.) It was common to broach the subject in a deeply apologetic…

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Banned Book Week: A Few Favorites

I wanted (want?) to read tons of books this week.  Seeing lists of books that have been banned and challenged  I’ve been doing a lot of: “Oh!  I remember that book!  I should read that again!” or “Oh! I’ve been meaning to read that one!”  If I had all the time in the world I would read them all (yes, every single one… I’ve got all the time, right?) But, I don’t… I have rather limited time honestly, so instead I will settle with reading one of them (To Kill a Mockingbird) and explore some memories and thoughts about a handful of favorites that made it to the 2000-2009 top 100 list of banned books.  These books spoke to me, for one reason or another, and have stuck with me (even though some of them I haven’t read for over 20 years).

Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling (occult/Satanism and anti-family themes)

10I came to these books a bit late, the first few were already out when I started reading them sometime late in college.  I love this series, fun stories, and I really appreciate how seed were planted in the early books that become important and relevant books later.  I very much admire the books from a writing perspective.  But even more than that — I remember Harry Potter being the first books that I saw everywhere.  Kids that I knew normally hated reading were burying themselves in these stories.  Addictive tales that introduced so many to the magic of reading.
As for the reasons for it’s challenge… I am always challenged by the idea of “occult/Satanism” behind a ban, and know that those who present this reason are generally coming from a religious understanding that I just can’t wrap my head around.   As a lover of, and writer of, fantasy stories, where I create magic systems and gods, I don’t think I need to say much about how I feel about that argument.  But the anti-family themes kind of surprises me.  Yes, there are certainly some challenging families in the stories, but the series can also, very much, be read as being about the power of family — and the power of created families.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (sexual content, racism, offensive language, violence and being unsuited to age group)

13214I read this in 8th Grade, as part of an after-school Honors English program.  It was powerful.  I don’t even remember what it was we were focusing on within the text, but I know a few things still stand out to me, foremost among them the beauty of Maya Angelou’s language.  Her writing drew me in, and even through parts of her life experience were very hard to read, the language had a beauty and power to it.

And one of the reasons for this book being challenged is one of the ones that often makes me want to stand up and shake people.  HAve you notice how books that talk about race, and a great many books written by people who happen to not be white get on the list for “racism”?  Is this a case of “if we pretend it doesn’t exist it doesn’t exist?” because, that’s certainly how it seems to me.   No, you can’t talk about racial inequality… you can’t have characters that face racism… that is inappropriate.  How does this make sense?

Be sure to check out Hannah Given’s Banned Book Blog Party, and Book Journey’s Banned Book Week Features!

Tomorrow... More of my book-reflections, and an exploration of that stubborn “unsuited to age group” reason.

Banned Book Blog Party

 Banned Book week is here!

I dislike that such a thing needs to exist… but I welcome the chance to celebrate some of those books that I love, which have made their way to the Banned and Challenged books lists.  The freedom to read the books which call to you is important to me.  So I love the chance to participate in the Banned Book Blog Party, hosted by Hannah Givens.

No books have ever been “off-limits” to me.  I’ve spoken before about how one of our regular forms of entertainment was to go to the library.  Mom would let us run loose through the building, the only limitation on the books we checked out being, “will you really read them all before we come back?”  I would enter that place like someone stepping up to an oasis, thirsty to get as many books as I could.  And I would leave like someone departing for a long journey, arms loaded with books of all sorts.

When I began to develop an interest in Holocaust Literature (at a ridiculously young age), Mom did nothing to stop me.  She did, I would much later find out, read many of the books that I checked out, but never once told me I couldn’t check them out.  When I began to express interest in writing Mom let me read the romance novels my aunt had written, because here was a published author that I knew.  Perhaps some would have said the material was a little advanced for a middle-schooler, but that was no reason for me to not try — and it helped me immensely to be able to read something and say “My Aunt wrote this!”  Taking the author off the pedestal and making me realize they are real person, that it wasn’t an impossible dream.

And when I look at the lists of books that have been banned and challenges… so many of them are books that held such important places in my life.  I remember once, when I was in High School, writing a letter to the editor, which got printed in the Oregonian (the first time I saw my name in print, next to something I had written, in a non-school-related publication), in response to an article about a group trying to remove The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the curriculum.  The argument they made (as seems to be made often) was the use of “The N word.”  But I had just finished reading this in school, and the conversations we had around the book, the language used in the book, and what Mark Twain was saying with this book had been powerful conversations.

I perused the ALA list of the top 100 Banned/Challenged Books from 2000-2009, and these ones especially stood out at me:

  1. Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
  2. And Tango Makes Three, by Justic Richardson/Peter Parnell
  3. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  4. His Dark Materials (series), by Phillip Pullman
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  6. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  8. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  9. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  11. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
  12. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
  13. Blubber, by Judy Blume
  14. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  15. The Great GIlly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
  16. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
  17. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
  18. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  19. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  20. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
  21. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
  22. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
  23. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
  24. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeline L’Engle
  25. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
  26. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  27. Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume.

These books I list, not because I am surprised that they have all been banned or challenged… I knew that many of them were on that list (though there were a few surprised for me Junie B?  The Upstairs Room? The Things They Carried? What?!) but I am somewhat surprised that over 1/4 of the list of frequently challenged books in those years are ones that I have read — many of them ones I really love and that helped me in some way.  A few of these spark such memories for me, many I own, may even made the Big Move, and survived the purge of psychical-copy books because they were so important.  It makes me sad, downright sad, and more than a little upset, that someone, somewhere, believed that they were doing right by trying to keep others from reading these books.

Bit by bit through the rest of this week I’ll take some time to visit the ones that spoke most to me — why I think they’re good books, important books.


For now, here are some other places that are exploring the issue of Banned Books today:

Cindy Grigg, “These 19 Frequently Challenged Books might Surprise You – Banned Books Week 2014

Protecting “The Books That Will Never Be Written”: Judy Blume’s Fight Against Censorship.

Banned Book Week: And Tango Makes Three. Hannah Givens

Banning Books, Banning Voices: A Banned Book Week Post, Part Time Monster.

Powell’s Books list of Banned Books

Banned Book Week

ALA Banned Books Page

For a collection of many Banned Book Week Posts that were published during the week, check out the pinterest board!