by Ashley Mancill
previously published 10/6/14
BANNED! 8 Lesser-known Books Banned in the United States
Most of us have read or at least know some of the works that are on the American Library Association’s lists of banned and challenged books. From literary masterpieces, to edgy young adult fiction, to beloved tales and new classics in children’s literature, these titles and countless others have been challenged and, in some cases, banned in an attempt to restrict access to the dangerous ideas, language, and content that lie therein.
Banned Books week, which runs from September 21 to September 27 this year, raises awareness about censorship and celebrates intellectual freedom—a core value of librarianship. To honor the occasion, I’ve compiled a short list of lesser-known banned books that have been pulled from library shelves at one time or other in the US.
It Stops With Me: Memoir of a Canuck Girl by Charleen Touchette
The memoir was removed from the Woonsocket Harris Public Library in 2005 following a challenge by the author’s father. Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College, supported the book’s removal, stating that domestic violence should remain a private matter. It Stops With Me was banned for several months pending a decision from the library’s board of trustees but ultimately found its way back on the library shelf.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Baum’s other Oz books were frequently challenged by librarians and teachers in the 1930s who felt that the children’s series lacked literary merit and were simply depraved. In the late 1950s, the director of the Detroit public library system denounced The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for promoting “negativism“, and the book was kept off the libraries’ shelves for forty-five years.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This is the first work by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian mathematics teacher and prison camp survivor. The novella follows Ivan Denisovich Shukov over the course of a day during his internment at a Russian gulag. The book was banned for its horrific portrayal of totalitarianism and the Soviet regime, and the author was exiled. It was removed from the Milton High School library in 1976 for “objectionable language.”
America by Jon Stewart
The ban on Stewart’s satirical textbook from two Mississippi libraries in the Jackson-George Regional Library System lasted only a day. The library board banned the book for its nude depictions of the Supreme Court justices. After immense criticism from patrons and unwanted attention from others outside of the community, the board reversed its decision, and the book was once again allowed to circulate in all eight of the system’s libraries. A few months earlier, Wal-Mart cancelled its order for the book after learning about the images and declined to carry the item in stores, stating it felt customers “may not be comfortable with that image.”
Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill) by John Cleland
Unless you studied English literature in college, are a literary critic, or enjoy reading eighteenth-century erotica, you have probably never heard of this book. But John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (commonly called Fanny Hill) is so sexually explicit that the author was charged and arrested for obscenity shortly after his release from debtor’s prision. Both the original and edited versions were banned in the United States in 1821. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled that the novel didn’t meet the standard for obscenity and was protected under the First Amendment, lifting the ban on its publication and circulation.
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
A parent of a student at Ardmore High School in Athens, Alabama, filed a complaint with the Limestone County School Board after discovering that Crutcher’s book contained racial slurs and profanity. Board members voted the book be removed despite a recommendation from the superintendent that it be retained. Parents in Georgetown, South Carolina, raised similar concerns over the book, and it was ultimately removed from the school district’s reading list. The author defended his use of profanity, claiming it “is important to the text and to the honesty of the characters and the lessons learned at the book’s conclusion.”
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Some logging families in the Pacific Northwest didn’t appreciate the Lorax speaking for the Truffula trees. The popular Dr. Seuss book was reportedly banned by schools and libraries in areas where foresting was the primary industry. The book was challenged in 1989 in Laytonville, California, after the parents of a second grader complained to the school board that the book negatively reflected the lumbering industry. The book was retained, but other communities have attempted to have the book banned on similar grounds.
Editor’s note- this was intended for Banned Books week but glad to share now too!- Naomi