Books have been banned for various reasons throughout history. While you might think that it doesn’t happen anymore, the truth is numerous books are still challenged and banned in schools and libraries throughout the United States. Back in 1982, so many books were being challenged that several organizations around the country came together to start Banned Books Week.
Banning books is a First Amendment issue. The act restricts the freedom of speech, the freedom to express opinions, and the freedom to select what information you seek. You have the right to access information even if it’s unpopular, but book banning prohibits you from exercising that right.
Books get banned for many different reasons, including:
- Political views
- Drug use
- LGBTQIA+ content
Let’s take a look at a few of the many books that have been challenged or banned in the United States.
1. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
To this day, The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most challenged books in the U.S. One of the first challenges was in 1960, when a teacher in Oklahoma was fired for assigning it. While the teacher appealed and was reinstated, the book was removed from use. Dozens more challenges have happened since then. The most frequently cited reasons are that it includes offensive language, is sexually explicit, and that it’s unsuitable for the age group assigned to read it.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
In 1977, To Kill a Mockingbird was challenged (and then temporarily banned) in Minnesota for offensive language. Language is an issue that many cite when challenging this book, even in recent years. Other than profanity, the book has been challenged for themes of sex, rape, and incest.
3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has faced criticism since its publication in 1885. Many critics cite racism and conflicts with community values. As recently as last year, New Jersey lawmakers created a resolution to remove the novel from school curricula for the use of racial slurs and depictions of racist attitudes.
4. Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series was (and still is) a hit with many kids and adults. It’s also faced a lot of criticism for its themes of witchcraft, particularly from Christian groups. Last year, a Catholic school in Nashville removed it from its library after a pastor raised concerns regarding its portrayal of magic.
5. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
The Color Purple, written in 1982, received a Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Even so, it’s been challenged and banned for numerous reasons, including offensive language, sexuality, violence, drug use, and more.
6. George, Alex Gino
George was one of the most challenged books of 2019. Reasons include LGBTQIA+ themes, a transgender character, sexual references, and challenges to the “traditional family structure.” Critics state that schools and libraries shouldn’t carry a book that requires discussion of such topics.
7. Sex is a Funny Word, Corey Silverburg and Fiona Smyth
Sex is a Funny Word is a children’s book that teaches readers about their bodies and feelings. It’s received a lot of criticism for its content, which includes sex education with LGBTQIA+ themes. Some have claimed the pictures are “inappropriate” as well. As a result, the book has been challenged, banned, or relocated in several areas across the country.
8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of the most challenged books of the last decade. While it was praised for tackling issues such as race, bullying, and poverty, it was also criticized for anti-Christian views, language, and references to masturbation. It’s currently one of the most banned books in circulation.
9. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
Published in 2007, Thirteen Reasons Why was praised for addressing the topics of teen suicide and bullying. Still, it was removed from library shelves throughout Colorado and California after concerned parents complained about the subject matter.
10. Captain Underpants Series, Dav Pilkey
The Captain Underpants series tells the story of two fourth-grade students with incredible imaginations who enjoy playing practical jokes and writing comics. It all seems like innocent fun, but the series is often challenged for encouraging kids to be disruptive. One of the books in the series has a same-sex couple, which has also raised concerns.
Are there other books you’ve seen being challenged or banned in your community?