HomeReader's Corner / Banned Books

Banned Books

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Freedom to read can never be taken for granted. Even in Canada, a free country by world standards, books and magazines are banned at the border. Books are removed from the shelves in Canadian libraries, schools and bookstores every day. Free speech on the Internet is under attack. Few of these stories make headlines, but they affect the right of Canadians to decide for themselves what they choose to read.
- freedomtoread.ca


"A word after a word after a word is power" - Margaret Atwood


The power of words.  The controversy of ideas. Some books have caused an uproar in social, political, and religious circles.  Celebrate your freedom to access ideas and expression by checking out some of these banned or challenged books. 


Useful links:

Freedom to Read

Freedom to Read Week in Canada

Books and Magazines Challenged in Canada

American Library Association - Challenged classics

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1984 by George Orwell. Harcourt. Challenged in the Jackson County, Fla. (1981) because the novel is "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter."

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain [Samuel L. Clemens].  Excluded from the children's room in the Brooklyn, N.Y. Public Library (1876) and the Denver, Colo. Public Library (1876). Confiscated at the USSR border (1930). Removed from the seventh grade curriculum in the West Chester, Pa. schools (1994) after parents complained that it is too full of racially charged language. 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, "Animals should not use human language."

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Challenged in Wise County, Va. (1982) due to "sexually offensive" passages. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee (1983) called for the rejection of this book because it is a "real downer."

Arabian Nights: The Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous. U.S. Customs held up 500 sets of the translation by the French scholar Mardrus, which were imported from England (1927-31). It was confiscated in Cairo, Egypt (1985), on the grounds that it contained obscene passages which posed a threat to the country's moral fabric. It was judged inappropriate for Jewish pupils by the Israeli director of the British Consul Library in Jerusalem, Israel (1985).

Beloved by Toni Morrison. Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla. (1995). Challenged by a member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee (1997) because of the book's language. This 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel has been required reading for the advanced placement English class for six years.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  Banned in Ireland (1932). Removed from classroom in Miller, Mo. (1980). Challenged at the Yukon, Okla. High School (1988); challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco, Calif. Unified School District (1993) because the book "centered around negative activity.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Removed in Wild Rose, Wis. (1974) by a district administrator for being "slanted." The administrator also said "if there's a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it."

The Call of the Wild by Jack London. Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1932).

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Univ. of Okla. Pr. People have long been squeamish with this one...It was subjected to revisions in 1928, and editions today tend to avoid four letter words. It was removed from a senior college preparatory literature course at the Eureka, Ill. High School (1995) for sexual content

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Published in 1951, this immediate best seller almost simultaneously became a popular target of censorship. A 1991-92 study by the People for the American Way found that the novel was among those most likely to be censored based on the fact that it is "anti-Christian." Challenged by Concerned Citizens of Florida who wanted the book removed from a high school library (1991) in Leesburg, Florida due to "profanity, reference to suicide, vulgarity, disrespect, and anti-Christian sentiments." They were unsuccessful: a review committee voted unanimously to retain the book.

The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo. Harper. Challenged at the Deschutes County Library in Bend, Oreg. (1993) because it "encourages and condones" homosexuality.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Bantam; Knopf; Penguin. Removed from a locked reference collection at the Boulder, Colo. Public Library (1988), where it had been placed because the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life.

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. Coronet. Challenged at the Berrien Springs, Mich. High School for its use in classrooms and libraries (1988), Banned from the Cascade Middle School library in Eugene, Oreg. (1992), Challenged, but retained on the Moorpark High School recommended reading list in Simi Valley, Calif. (1993), despite objections that it contains "hardcore graphic sexual content."

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Harcourt. Challenged as appropriate reading material for an Oakland, Calif. High School honors class (1984) due to the work's "sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was finally approved for use by the Oakland Board of Education after nine months of debate. Banned in the Souderton, Pa. Area School District (1992) as appropriate reading for tenth graders because it is "smut.  "Removed from the Jackson County, W.Va. school libraries (1997) along with sixteen other titles

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob and Wilhelm K. Grimm. Translated by Jack Zipes. Bantam. Restricted to sixth through eighth grade classrooms at the Kyrene, Ariz. elementary schools (1994) due to its excessive violence, negative protrayals of female characters, and anti-Semitic references.

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galilei Galileo. Univ. of California Pr. Banned by Pope Urban VIII for heresy and breach of good faith (1633).

Different Seasons by Stephen King. NAL. Removed from the West Lyon Community School library in Larchwood, Iowa (1987) because "it does not meet the standards of the community." Removed from the Washington Middle School library in Meriden, Conn. (1989) after a parental complaint. Challenged at the Eagan High School in Burnsville, Minn. (1992). This collection of novellas, which include the stories on which the acclaimed movies Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption were based, is some of King's best writing.

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen. Penguin. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committe (1983)--presumably the same who objected to The Diary of Anne Frank --called for the rejection of this work because it propagates feminist views.

Don Quixote by Saavedra Miguel de Cervantes. Methuen; NAL; Norton; Random. Placed on the Index in Madrid for the sentence, "Works of charity negligently performed are of no worth.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Ballentine. Ironically, students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, Calif. received copies of the book with scores of words--mostly "hells" and "damns"--blacked out. The novel is about book burning and censorship. Thankfully, after receiving complaints from parents and being contacted by reporters, school officials said the censored copies would no longer be used (1992).

The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs. Dell. Restricted at the Dysart Unified School District libraries in El Mirage, Ariz. (1990) because of two uses of profanity and because of its link to magic. It is the second book in a series which starts with The House With a Clock in its Walls

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Avon; Macmillan. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was banned from the Anaheim, Calif. Union High School District English classrooms (1978). The novel was challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because it uses the word "nigger." 

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Penguin; Viking. Burned by the St. Louis, Mo. Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used. Banned in Kansas City, Mo. (1939); Kern County, Calif., the scene of Steinbeck's novel, (1939); Ireland (1953); Kanawha, Iowa High School classes (1980); and Morris, Manitoba (1982). Challenged in the Greenville, S.C. schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a "vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references."

The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher by M.C. Escher. Pan/Ballentine. Retained after being challenged at Maldonado Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz. (1994) for "pornographic", "perverted", and "morbid" themes.

Grendel by John C. Gardner. Knopf. This book has been challenged quite a lot.  Most recently challenged, but retained, on high school reading lists in Douglas, Colo. (1997). Parents compained that the novel was too obscene and violent for high school students. 

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Airmont; Bantam; Bobbs-Merrill; Dell; Grosset; Houghton; NAL; Norton; Oxford Univ. Pr.; Pocket Bks. Denounced as wicked and obscene in Ireland (1726), which was no doubt the effect Swift was going for.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Airmont; Cambridge Univ. Pr.; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Methuen. Banned in Ethiopia (1978)

The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. Penguin. Challenged at the Springfield, Oreg. Public Library (1988) because the stories were "distressing and morbid."

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Bantam. This book gets challenged quite often, due to the poet's descriptions of being raped as a young girl.

It by Stephen King. Viking. Challenged at the Lincoln, Nebr. school libraries (1987); placed on a "closed shelf" at the Franklinville, N.Y. Central High School library (1992)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. ABC-Clio; Knopf. Challenged at the Deep Creek Elementary School in Charlotte Harbor, Fla. (1991) because it is "not appropriate reading material for young children." Challenged at the Pederson Elementary School in Altoona, Wis. (1991) and at the Morton Elementary School library in Brooksville, Fla. (1992) because the book contains the word "ass" and "promotes" the use of drugs (tobacco, snuff) and whiskey. Removed from classrooms in Stafford County, Va. Schools (1995) and placed in restricted access in the library because the story contains crude language and encourages children to disobey their parents and other adults.

King Lear by William Shakespeare. Airmont; Methuen;NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks. Now considered to be among Shakespeare's greatest works, Lear was performed in drastically adapted form--Nahum Tate's Restoration version eliminated characters and boasted a happy ending in which Lear is restored to the throne and Cordelia survives. The play was subject to political censorship when it was banned from the English stage from 1788 to 1820, out of respect to King George III's alleged insanity. The tragic ending of King Lear was not restored until 1823, and the character of the fool was finally reintroduced in 1838. 

The Koran. Penguin; Tahrike Tarsil; Quran. Ban lifted by the Spanish Index in 1790. Restricted to students of history in the USSR (1926)

Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. Scribner; Collier; Penguin. Challenged as required reading at the Pulaski County High School in Somerset, Ky. (1997) because it is "junk." Granted, Malory has problems with his narrative, but YOU try to translate Medieval French texts into comprehesible Middle English. 

League of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore. Pulled from library shelves for its graphic sexual content.

The Life and Times of Renoir by Janice Anderson. Shooting Star Pr. Restricted at the Pulaski, Pa. Elementary School Library (1997) because of nude paintings in the book.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. Harper. Challenged at the Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wis. (1985) because the book "enourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them." Removed from Minot, N.Dak. Public School libraries when the superintendent found "suggestive illustrations." Challenged at the Big Bend Elementary School library in Mukwonago, Wis. (1986) because some of Silverstein's poems "glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient."

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Macmillan. Challenged in the Howard County, Md. school system (1990) because it depicts "graphic violence, mysticism, and gore."

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Buccaneer; harper; Transaction. Removed from the classrooms, but later reinstated, for third-graders at the Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton, Calif. (1996). Complainants also want the book removed from the library because it "promotes racial epithets and is fueling the fire of racism."

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Buccaneer; Harper; Transaction. Challenged at the Lafourche Parish elementary school libraries in Thibodaux, La. (1993) because the book is "offensive to Indians." Banned in the Sturgis, S. Dak. elementary school classrooms (1993) due to statements considered derogatory to Native Americans.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Random. Challenged in the Laytonville, Calif. Unified School District (1989) because it "criminalizes the foresting industry."

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. Bantam. Challenged in the Cobb County, Ga. schools (1992) for profanity and descriptions of sadomasochistic acts. Removed from and elective English course by the WestonKa, Minn. School Board (1992) due to parental complaints about language and sex in the book.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Bantam. Challenged at the Haines City, Fla. High School (1982) for profanity and the use of God's name in vain. Challenged at the Newton-Conover, N.C. High School (1987) as supplemental reading due to profanity. Challenged at the Gatlinburg-Pittman, Tenn. High School (1993) due to profanity.

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. Harper; Lippincott. Removed from fifth and sixth grade optional reading lists in Clay County, Fla. schools (1990) because the book uses the word "bitch" to refer to a female dog, as well as the word "damn."

The Odyssey by Homer. Airmont; Doubleday; Harper; Macmillan; MAL; Oxford Univ. Pr.; Penguin. Plato suggested expurgating it for immature readers (387 B.C.) and Caligula tried to suppress it because it expressed Greek ideals of freedom.

On the Origin of Species by Charles B. Darwin. Harvard Univ. Pr.; Macmillan; Modern Library; NAL; Morton; Penguin; Rowman; Ungar. Banned from Trinity College in Cambridge, UK (1859); Yugoslavia (1935); Greece (1937). The teaching of evolution was prohibited in Tennessee from 1925-1967.

Paradise Lost by John Milton. Airmont; Holt; Modern Library/Random; NAL; Norton. Listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in Rome (1758).

Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Random. The Ogden, Utah School District (1979) restricted circulation of Hansberry's play in response to criticism from an anti-pornography organization.

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll by Jim Miller, ed. Random. Challenged in Jefferson, Ky. (1982) because it "will cause our children to become immoral and indecent."

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Viking. Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India due to its criticism of Islam. Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police. Five people died in riots against the book in Pakistan. Another man died a day later in Kashmir. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, stating, "I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death." Challenged at the Wichita, Kans. Public Library (1989) because it is "blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed."  Publishers and translators of the book have been attacked and, in some cases, murdered.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dell; Dial. Burned in Drake, N. Dak. (1973). Banned in Rochester Mich. because the novel "contains and makes references to religious matters" and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause. Challenged at the Owensboro, Ky. high School library (1985) because of "foul language, a reference to 'Magic Fingers' attached to the protagonist's bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: 'The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.' " Challenged, but retained on the Round Rock, Tex. Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. This particular novel is the recipient of a plug in the movie, Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Knopf; NAL. Challenged, but retained in the Columbus, Ohio schools (1993). The complainant believed that the book contains language degrading to blacks, and is sexually explicit. Removed from required reading lists and library shelves in the Richmond County, Ga. School District (1994). Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla. (1995). Removed from the St. Mary's County, Md. schools' approved text list (1998) by the school superintendant over the objections of the faculty.

The Stand by Stephen King. Doubleday; NAL. Restricted at the Whitford Intermediate School in Beaverton, Oreg. (1989) because of "sexual language, casual sex, and violence".

The Talmud. Soncino Pr. Burned in Cairo, Egypt (1190); Paris, France (1244); and Salamanca, Spain (1490). The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages tried to suppress this work. Pope Gregory IX ordered it burned (1239); Pope Innocent IV ordered King Louis IX of france to burn all copies (1248 and 1254); Pope Benedict XIII ordered the bishops of the Italian dioceses to confiscate all copies (1415); Pope Julius III ordered that Christians reading the Talmud be excommunicated; Pope Clement VIII forbade both "Christians and Jews from owning, reading, buying or circulating Talmudic or Cabbalistic books or other godless writing." (1592)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Lippincott/Harper; Popular Library. This novel has been challenged quite a lot due to its racial themes. Challenged--and temporarily banned--in Eden Valley, Minn.(1977); Challenged at the Warren, Ind. Township schools (1981), because the book "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of 'good literature'." After unsuccessfully banning the novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Banned from the Lindale, Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book "conflicted with the values of the community."

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. NAL; Norton; Penguin. Banned in France (1749).

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Airmont; Cambridge Univ. Pr.; Methuen; NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks.; Washington Square. Removed from a Merrimack, N.H. high school English class (1996) because of a policy that bans instruction which has "the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative."

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Airmont; Bantam; Harper; Houghton; Macmillan; NAL. Challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because the novel contains the word "nigger." Never mind that the novel is often credited with raising public antislavery sentiment which ultimately led to the emancipation of American slaves.

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Delacorte; Dell. A teacher was dismissed for assigning this collection of short stories to her eleventh grade English class because the book promoted "the killing off of elderly people and free sex." The teacher brought suit and won in Parducci v. Rutland, 316 F.Supp.352, (M.D.Ala 1970).

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Harper. Challenged at the West Allis-West Milwaukee, Wis. school libraries (1986) because the book "suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, rebellion against parents." Challenged at the Central Columbia School District in Bloomsburg, Pa. (1993) because a poem titled "Dreadful" talks about how "someone ate the baby." On the other hand, this book does present the negative consequences of not taking the garbage out.

Where's Waldo? by Martin Handford. Little. Challenged at the Public Libraries of Saginaw, Mich. (1989), Removed from the Springs Public School library in East Hampton, N.Y. (1993) because there is a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top. Yes, but did they find Waldo?

The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Atheneum. Challenged at the Hays, Kans. Public Library (1989) because it "could lead young readers to embrace satanism." The Newbery Award-winning book was retained on the approved reading list at Matthew Henson Middle School in Waldorf, Md. (1991) despite objections to its references to the occult.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Dell. Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book's listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil.

( Please Note: comments listed for each book are from an online source and not the commentary of the Prince Rupert Library)