The last week in September marks Banned Books Week, but I’m dedicating the entire month to reading only books that have been banned. Besides these new to me books, several of the books that are on my “must read” list have also been banned at some point, and this is the roundup of those, why they were banned and my thoughts.
Unless otherwise noted, my primary resource is this page.
1984, George Orwell. This book has been challenged for being pro-Communist and for sexually explicit matter. There is a sexual relationship, but I don’t remember it being explicit. As for being pro-Communist, well, there could be an argument for that, but with the internet and other invasive technology the Big Brother aspect is no longer fiction. It’s well worth a read.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding. Challenged numerous times as an inappropriate reading assignment having excessive violence, bad language and racism as well as other defamatory statements against minorities, God, women and the disabled, this novel is disturbing for any number of reasons. Probably not appropriate for kids under 12, I still wouldn’t stop them for reading it, but I would want an adult handy to talk about it.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott. Little Women? Yes, this delightful book was challenged early on for the characterization of sister Jo March as being too “radical”. On the other hand, modern feminists consider the book to be pandering to the weaker sex and failing to empower girls. Seems like these challenges cancel each other out. Moving on…
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll. This popular children’s story has often been challenged for its alleged promotion of drug use. Remember the philosophical caterpillar sitting on a mushroom and smoking a hookah? The the body altering piece of mushroom that he gives to Alice? Oh, me. There have also been complaints about the talking animals. I think by now society has come to accept and even expect talking animals so here’s another place where we can just move on.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde. One read of this book and you know there’s trouble. In fact, the first edition was so controversial that Wilde rewrote it, cleaning up some of the more egregious passages. The charge? Too much homoeroticism and suggestiveness. The uncensored version became available in 2011.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Banned and challenged numerous times for the adult themes of sexuality, drug use and suicide. In particular, in the book, a promiscuous lifestyle is encouraged and drug use not only encouraged but mandated. This book is dystopian science fiction and readers should be able to tell fiction from reality. The negative (in real people’s eyes) activity is central to the book, without it there is no book. Some of those things were uncomfortable to me but that’s no reason to ban it. Uncomfortable isn’t a feeling to run away from when reading.
The way this world is, it seems that someone could find some reason to challenge or ban a book. When searching to see if The Secret Garden had been banned, I found one source that said it should be banned because it’s the most boring book on the planet. Really?