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Today, in honor of Banned Books Week 2021, I’m bringing you a quick post about banned and challenged books in the US over the last 100 yrs- and why that is so incredibly dangerous.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald was challenged because of “language and sexual references”. Ok. So like, every day in highschool is full of foul language and sexual references. Have you met a teenager?

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger has been a favorite to challenge, with parents of students who were assigned to read the book often calling it “obscene” and “anti-white”. Some libraries removed it due to “excess vulgar language, sexual scenes….excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult.”. One highschool called it “blasphemous” and said that it “undermines morality”, and at another highschool it was challenged for “statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled”. (I’d love to know how those people truly spoke about their wives and women on the street, how they approached the poor and People of Color, and whether or not they used “cripple” or “retarded” as a slur.) In most of the cases of this book being challenged, it was retained in the library/curriculum, or at least parents were given the “choice” to “allow” their students to read it.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck has been burned, banned, challenged and restricted. Honestly, the moment I see a book has been burned I recoil. Burning books terrifies me, because I was taught to treat books with respect and honestly a level of sacredness and reverence. And also because Nazis.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which was required 9th grade reading at my highschool, has been challenged for language and its “damage to the positive integration process”. Having loved this book very much, having read it and watched the movie…. Claims like this always make me wonder: did you actually read the book? Like, did your brain work? Because the point was to highlight racial division and to try to undermine injustices caused by racism/white supremacy????

Ulysses by James Joyce has been burned in the US, Ireland, Canada and England, and banned in England. I have it on my bookshelf but have never sat down to read it- this rather motivates me.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding has been challenged on its implications “that man is little more than an animal”, for its “excessive violence and bad language”, and for racism. I have to wonder if people were more upset about its portrayal of the darkest parts of the human psyche, and were scared that they themselves might actually be capable of such things. However, we’ve seen that this actually is often NOT the case! See episode #16.

1984 by George Orwell for promoting communism and “explicit sexual matter”. I love that the book’s content literally goes right over people’s heads on this one. Literally so close.

Lolita by Vladmir Nobakov was banned as obscene in France, England, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa, as well as being challenged in Florida for “pedophilia and incest”. Funny enough, one of my teachers gave me this to read to just for fun- when my mom found out her eyes went to the size of SAUCERS LMAO i did not ever actually read the book though hahaha

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, also a required reading when I was in high school, has been challenged by the KKK for “profanity and using God’s name in vain” (hilarious the irony there). Most of the cases of its challenging, and the few times it was removed (though typically reinstated later), it was due to “offensive language” and “blasphemy”. Of course, there is the claim that it is “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled”- which we now see, after having read a few of these accounts of challenged books, is a buzz-word using tactic to try to get rid of a book that people just don’t like! The majority of concerns seem to be around the book’s portrayal of/skepticism of religion, and God-forbid we should let children think for themselves on that one.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway was banned in various cities in America, as well as in Ireland. It was also burned in Nazi bonfires in Germany.

A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway, was also burned by the Nazis. It was also challenged in various places through the United States and banned in Ireland. Funnily, it was banned in Italy in 1929 because of the accuracy of its account of Italy’s retreat from Caporetto in WWI. Do you know how proud I would be to have the Nazis burn TWO OF MY BOOKS!? That’s how you know you’ve made it, folks.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway, was declared non-mailable by the USPS, and Turkish publishers and publishers were put on trial for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state”. At least this one didn’t get burned?

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, was challenged for “profanity”, “references to abortion”, “taking God’s name in vain” and “masturbation”. In every case, it seems to have been reinstated. Another one where the people just can’t handle questioning the existence of God.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, was banned in South Africa. This novel about a Holocaust survivor was challenged in 2002 in California, but was returned. They were concerned about “sexual content”. When the bigger issue here that there was a f*cking Holocaust in the first place. Ok.

Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut is a polarizing man so frankly it would be more surprising to me if he HADN’T been at least challenged at some point? “Obscene language”, “sexual scenes”, “blaspehmy” and “references to religious matters” were of course, all cited for Slaughterhouse Five. Also “bestiality” and “sexually deviant behavior”, but I mean honestly that stuff is gonna come up at some point and if your kid hasn’t already seen a reference to that by highschool then they gotta live under a rock. A Michigan county prosecutor actually wrote in 2007 that the passages in question “illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message” and were not intended to appeal to salacious, lascivious interests, thus they were not in violation of any laws. I’d say Cat’s Cradle was probably challenged mostly on principle at that point lol.

Lastly, just because it made me laugh- The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien was burned outside Christ Community Church, along with other Tolkien novels, in 2001 as satanic. Are you people stupid? JRR TOLKIEN CONVERTED HIS BFF, CS LEWIS TO CHRISTIANITY. CS Lewis, the author of Narnia and one of the most quoted theological authors in my opinion. Tolkien converted him. And you burn HIS BOOKS as Satanic!?!?!?!?!? Christianity is literally a THEME IN LOTR and the entire Middle-Earth universe. Dear LORD y’all are dense

Anyway. I wanted to share these books with you, and some of the reasons they were banned/challenged, and my thoughts on that…. Just to point out how dangerous that is. So many of these were challenged on the basis that they would encourage people to think differently from the status quo… and that scares people. Small minded people love to have a little box to live within, and if someone tries to step outside of that, then they’re ostracized. If someone even tries to think outside of that box, just to try it, then those small minded people get scared- because what if the box gets bigger? What if the box breaks down, because someone pushed on it? Comfortable is truly a place, but it’s not a place in which you can grow.

If you haven’t yet, try reading some of these books. They might inspire some critical thinking, or give you some ideas you’ve never really considered. At the least, you’ll be pushing on that box.

Until next time my loves <3


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