Banned Books Week takes place on 23-29 September 2018. Originally started in America, it aims to draw attention to the number of books that have been banned throughout history, and has since spread across the world. It encourages people to look into books that have been challenged, but above all, the week celebrates the freedom to read.
There are so many books that have been banned for a variety of reasons, and we’ve picked a few to highlight. Do any of these surprise you that they were banned?
The Witches by Roald Dahl
A children’s favourite, this tale of witches living in disguise as normal women has been criticised for a number of reasons since it was first published in 1983. While many American libraries tried to ban it for its violence and increasing the interest in witchcraft, it has also been banned for its perceived misogyny, as Dahl says that only women can be witches: “I do not wish to speak badly about women, most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch. On the other hand, a ghoul is always a male…both are dangerous. But neither of them is half as dangerous as a REAL WITCH.”
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The phenomenon that spread worldwide and engrossed children and adults alike. But some places weren’t too happy with the magic that many others love, and it is among the most frequently challenged books, primarily for religious reasons. It has been banned in many schools for its portrayal of witches and wizards as good, which means that people may not take the threat of witchcraft seriously. Other people aren’t happy with Harry and his friends’ rule-breaking through the books. Do you think heroes should always be completely good people?
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple has been challenged dozens of times since its publication in 1982 for its sexual content and racism. In a number of schools, only students over eighteen or who had parental permission could take it out of the libraries. It has also been banned for violence and offensive language. Nevertheless, in 2003 the book was listed on the BBC’s The Big Read poll as one of the country’s “best-loved novel”, and was released as a film in 1985 and an award-winning musical in 2005.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
A hugely popular book with young adult readers for its themes of teenage angst, alienation and rebellion. It’s been controversial since its release in 1951 for its use of vulgar language, sexual content and references to alcohol and cigarettes. In 1981 it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the USA – which side do you think it belongs on?
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Banned in Ireland after its release in 1932, other countries swiftly followed for a host of reasons, including nudity, racism and sexual behaviour, in particular in places where it challenged school curriculums that taught sexual abstinence until marriage. It also has characters who show “contempt for religion, marriage, and the family” as well as drug use and derogatory language. In 2011, a parent also complained that “the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today’s multicultural society.”
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Famously banned for its obscenity, Penguin Books was taken to court for its publication of the unedited edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960. The Obscene Publications Act of 1959 meant that it was possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work had literary value. Penguin won the case, resulting in greater freedom for publishing explicit material. Bookshops sold out of copies in minutes, showing that readers like something a bit risqué!
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