Happy Banned Books Week!

September 28, 2016

It only comes but once a year, but the actual banning of books happens far more frequently than that.

Here in Evanston we are a reading community.  Book challenges don’t appear here at the same rate that they may in other cities.  That said, there is value in celebrating the right to read.  Here then is a listing of books that have been banned with description of some of the more ridiculous reasons for their challenges.  All of the following are true:

The Diary of Anne Frank


Reason for the Ban: “Too depressing”

It’s not widely known but there are actually two versions of Anne Frank’s diary out there.  The first is the cleaned up version originally published, with sections carefully left out.  The second is the full uncut version where Anne is particularly bitter about her mother and freely writes down her thoughts on sex.  Now the book does get banned for those sections, sure, but the it’s the “too depressing” reason (as stated by a school board in Alabama) that folks often forget.  Ah, if only she’d included more jokes.  *shudder*

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.


Reason for the Ban: Mistaken Identity

This is a good one.  Apparently this book was once banned because “Bill Martin Jr.” is also the name of an author who wrote the book Ethical Marxism.  For this reason, and this reason alone, Brown Bear was taken off a Texan curriculum.  Whoo  boy.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl


Reason for the Ban: Sexy spider tongue

This was a new one on me.  The usual reason James gets banned is because the word “ass” appears on the text (it also appears in Peter Pan, but no one seems to mind that as much).  My favorite reason dates back to 1986.  That was the year that a small town in Wisconsin banned the book because at one point the spider character licks her lips.  The perpetually moistened lip denizens of this town said this action could be taken only one of two ways “including sexual”.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Reason for the Ban: A metaphor

If you’ve read the book then you probably can imagine all the different reasons the book has been banned over the years.  That said, you probably didn’t know about the high school in Owensboro, KY that banned the book in 1985 for a single, solitary sentence: “The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.” Metaphors, it seems, are no safer from banning than anything else in this world.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein


Reason for the Ban: Promoting violence against dishes

Shel Silverstein has been banned pretty much from the get-go (if Different Dances doesn’t explain why then Uncle Shelby’s A, B, Zs might) and for all kinds of reasons (one of my favorite being that he has “glorified Satan, suicide, and cannibalism”).  But by far my favorite was the time the book was banned for encouraging, “children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.”

And just to keep the fun going, here are some other Banned Book Week events happening on the interwebs:

  • Add this Twibbon to your profile picture to show that you STAND UP FOR THE RIGHT TO READ!
  • For Banned Website Awareness Day, Dr. Audrey Church (2016-2017 AASL president and professor of school librarianship at Longwood University, VA) and Lauren Mabry (current member of the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee, a past member of the AASL Banned Websites Awareness Day Committee, and a 2009 ALA Spectrum Scholar) will write on the connection between censoring books and filtering online resources.
  • Battling Bannings: Authors Discuss Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read – A free webinar with SAGE Publishing on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. CST. Join authors Jessica Herthel (I Am Jazz), Christine Badacchino (Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress) and Wendy Doniger (The Hindus) as they share their stories of censorship. Register to reserve your spot.
  • A Night of Silenced Voices” – Seven bookstores across the country are celebrating diversity and Banned Books Week with open mic events on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
  • Contribute to the Banned Books Week conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BannedBooksWeek.

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

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