It's Banned Books Week so I thought I would share some books from my shelves that have been banned or challenged as well as a few that are still on my list to read. I have Canadian literature, classics, YA and some of my all time favourite books on this list.
Here are some explanations on the differences between whether a book is banned or challenged and what that means and who makes that decision.
First on my list is the Queen of Canadian Literature herself; Margaret Atwood has one of the world's most widely challenged books. It has been banned or challenged mostly for profane language, anti-Christian overtones, violence, and sexual content.
This book is still taught in schools. Margaret Atwood has said numerous times that she didn’t include anything in the Handmaid’s Tale that didn’t actually happen in real life so there is a lot to discuss in this book. As Margaret Atwood says, a word after a word after a word, is power.
One of my favourite Canadian authors, Lawrence Hill, has met some negative reactions to his incredible book: The Book of Negroes. The title itself was an issue for some publishers in the US, Norway, Australia and New Zealand. They changed the title to Someone Knows my Name even though The Book of Negroes is an actual historical document. Within Canada, the title in Quebec is Aminata, which is the name of the main character.
I loved Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro which was written in 1971. It’s about a young girl, coming of age in rural Ontario in the 1940’s and what she experiences on the journey to womanhood. It has been challenged because of its philosophy and language. I would like to know exactly what they mean by "its philosophy".
The Apprenticeshiip of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler is a Canadian book, I have yet to read. I have heard that Duddy Kavitz is a character that sticks with you. It was written in 1959 and has been sitting on my shelf since the mid 90’s. It has been challenged for offensive language and sexual content. Duddy Kravitz is from a Jewish Immigrant family in Montreal who wants to be somebody and learns some lessons along the way.
YA books always seem to make their way to Banned and Challenged book lists.
One of them being one of my favourites in 2020, so far, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It has been challenged because of descriptions of masturbation, sex, drugs, and suicide.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a story about young love and acceptance. It has been challenged for profanity and sexual content.
Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume might be one of the most famous YA banned books. This book was first published in 1970 and there has often been controversy around this book because it talks about puberty and teen sexuality. Regardless, it continues to gain popularity each generation.
One of the YA books that i’m hoping to get to by the end of the year is The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. This book has been getting rave reviews for the three years it’s been published but it has also been challenged because some believe it’s an indoctrination of distrust of the police. Definitely interesting in our times now.
Classics are often on the list of banned or challenged books as well.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is still taught in schools but it has been challenged for language and sexual content.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is another book that is still taught in schools. It has been challenged because of vulgarity, racism and treatment of women.
Another favourite classic book that has been banned is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This story has been banned at various times for sexual content, violence and abuse.
One of the classics that has been banned and has been on my shelf for some time is Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger. It was the most censored book in highschools between 1961 and 1982. It has been banned for various reasons: prostitution, premarital sex and alcohol abuse. I am really looking forward to finally reading about this Holden Caulfield fella I’ve heard so much about.
A number of my favourite books have been banned or challenged.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a heartbreaking and beautifully written story that has been challenged since its publication in 2003. It was challenged for sexual violence, Islamaphobia, offensive language and some have even thought it would inspire terrorism.
Another book that I loved is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I learned so much from this book and was grateful to the author for making this story accessible. This book is scientific and about Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951. Her cells, know HeLa cells were the first human cells to be reproduced in culture. They were also taken without her consent. In an article I read from 2015, a parent thought the book was pornographic. I loved Skloot’s response on twitter: “Just in time for banned books week. A parent in TN confuses gynecology with pornography & tries to ban my book.” I will leave a link to that article below.
Finally, another one of my favourite books of 2020 (so far), Beartown by Fredrik Backman was banned by a North Carolina School District in 2017. Parents complained about its “vulgar”, “graphic” and “just unnecessary” subject matter. The issue was dealt with by saying that the book was not initially on the approved list and that it was a new teacher who didn’t know the protocol.
Check out my video on Banned Books which includes a Banned Book that has been on my shelf FOREVER. It is INTIMIDATING and I think this might be the year that I FINALLY read it.