Since the beginning of time, the banning of books has been a constant as a way to stop the purpose of literature: open the mind of its readers to new worlds, new understandings, and new cultures and ways of living.
However, book banning has become more of a moral question that tries to stop the advance of liberal thought that relates to things such as sexuality, diversity, and even religion.
The latest case of this, was the banning of Maus, the Pulitzer-award-winning graphic novel written by Art Spiegelman. The reason? The way it recollects the author’s memoirs about the Holocaust is just too much and they try to “protect children” from certain ideologies. But, how to talk about one of the most horrible moments in human history without being a little explicit or talking about wrong ideologies.
Of course, this is not the only case. Some school boards and even governments have banned classic titles that every eager reader should have on their list. These are some of these:
Maus, by Art Spiegelman
This graphic novel about the Holocaust was banned by a Tennessee school board due to concerns about profanity and female nudity even though Spiegelman’s story has mice, cats, and pigs as characters, not humans.
Some of the topics that got the book banned are essential to the story that follows a Jewish family during World War II.
To kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Published in 1960 and being a classic of modern American Literature and a Pulitzer winner, this novel has not been able to dodge the banning.
It tells the story of a white lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of rape in a segregated Alabama town.
According to some, the book should be removed from the required reading lists in schools for its racial matters and slurs. Fortunately, the challenge of the book has not gone as far as to get banned.
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Fully published in 1922, this classic novel got banned in England, the United States, and Ireland almost since its release because it was considered obscene.
It was such a controversial piece of literature that throughout the 1920s, the United States Post Office Department burned copies of the novel.
However, nowadays, this story about a day in the life of Leopold Bloom is considered a classic and is included in almost every school reading list.
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
This 1955 novel written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov is considered to be an all-time literature classic and, some consider it to be in the list of the erotic novel works mainly because of its depiction of Dolores Haze -a 12-year-old girl- and a French middle-aged literature professor that goes under the name of Humber Humbert.
Because of this, many countries like France, England, and Argentina banned the book after its publication, however, it has been removed and is now considered to be a must-read amongst more advanced readers.
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
This dystopian story that forces fertile women to give birth has been criticized because of its religious and sexual themes.
It got to the point that the book was pulled from circulation in a Kansas school district but was restored.
Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Written by the British-Indian writer and first published in 1988 this novel is inspired by the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The reason why the book caused controversy since day one, especially among Muslims that accused the writer and the novel of blasphemy and mocking their faith.
Its critics were so enraged that even in February 1989 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, called for Rushdie’s death. Something that did not go through.
The book is still banned in countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, and Poland.
The catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Since its publication as a novel in 1951, this novel has been one of the censorship favorites. The novel was intended for an adult audience, hence it includes themes like sex, depression, issues of innocence, and rebellion.
The American Library Association has considered this, one of the greatest English novels of all time, as the most censored book (especially during 1961 and 1982) and challenged books from 1990 to 1999, 2005, and 2009.
Many believe that the use of vulgar language and sexual references undermine family values.
1984, by George Orwell
Maybe one of the most iconic novels for its criticism of totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and manipulation of truth, definitely topics that some consider as outrageous and therefore asked for its ban.
Specifically, in 1981 Jackson County in Florida challenged the book because it was considered “pro-communist”. Thankfully, it didn’t proceed.
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
A teen book might not be the first that comes to your mind when you think about the ban on books, but this indeed happened. It was challenged by an Alabama boarding school for its content about alcohol consumption, smoking, and even a sex scene that Green himself declared to be “massively unerotic”.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Yes, the famous saga written by Tolkien was once the object not only of a ban but of burning of books by a Christ Community Church in New Mexico because they considered the novels to be “satanic”.
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