“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”? “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? “The Lorax”?
Did you know that some of your favorite books might once have been banned or challenged? In honor of Banned Books Week, we’ve been highlighting FIRE staff’s favorite banned books on our Instagram account and adding new books to FIRE’s Banned Books page.
A book is challenged when people call for it to be banned or removed from the public’s access — whether it be from an elementary school library, a public library, or a high school’s suggested summer reading list. A ban occurs when that book is actually removed.
Wondering if your favorite book has ever been banned? The answer might surprise you.
FIRE’s always-expanding Banned Books page is a good place to start. There, you can learn more about the challenges some of these books have faced by simply scrolling over its cover to reveal the reasons people called for censorship.
The American Library Association, which takes on the important task of monitoring challenges to the public’s access to literature, maintains even more exhaustive information on banned books, including lists of the most frequently banned books, annual lists of the year’s top 10 banned books, and more.
You’ll also find interesting historical facts about banned books like:
- The U.S. Postal Service burned copies of “Ulysses” by James Joyce and banned “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway from being mailed;
- Gloria Steinem advocated for a boycott of “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis. Years later, she became the stepmother of Christian Bale, star of the movie adaptation of the book;
- “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell was challenged for being “pro-communist,” ironically;
- In 1985, “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein was challenged by parents at a Wisconsin elementary school for “encourag[ing] children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”
While it may seem like banning books is a relic of the past, it isn’t. Books are still routinely challenged and banned, with some of the most controversial themes today including books that discuss sex, gender, sexual orientation, suicide, and violence. Works that deal with controversial issues like these are best discussed openly, meeting opposition head-on, not hidden away by an administrator or busybody.
Those who can control what you can see or hear can dictate what you think and say. We hope our readers find a new reason to pick up a banned book this week!