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Saturday, October 6, 2012

2012 Banned Books Week: Young Adult/Adult Books

Image courtesy of the
American Library Association

Today is the final day of this year's Banned Books Week. Last year, I wrote about several picture books that have been banned or challenged, as well as a few books for older kids. Earlier this week, I featured some more picture books and middle grade books.  Now I'd like to share some novels for teens and adults that have been challenged or banned over the years.

All of the books in this post are classics, and are often recommended (or required) reading for high schoolers.  I read them all when I was in high school myself (with the exception of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl -- I read a version of that in elementary school) and have read them all again in the past month:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
written by Mark Twain, 1884
Set in the Missouri of the 1830's, this story is narrated by Huck Finn, a 13-year-old boy.  His father is an abusive drunkard, leading Huck one day to fake his own murder and run away.  At the same time, he helps Jim, a slave, escape. The two runaways ride a raft down the Mississippi River, hoping to make it to Cairo, IL where Jim can then continue on to Ohio, a free state.  It doesn't take long before the two run into trouble, however.

This book has been challenged for "objectionable language and racist terms and content".


Brave New World,
written by Aldous Huxley, 1932
A dark, satiric story of a 'utopian' future,  the brave new world Huxley writes about is filled with "humans [who] are genetically designed and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order".  Bernard Marx is an outcast of this society, having only one friend -- Helmholtz Watson. He is in love with a young woman, Lenina, and finally manages to convince her to go on vacation with him.  The two visit a "Savage Reservation" where they encounter a way of life very different from their own....

"Negative activity, language and moral content, and anti-family, anti-Christian themes" are the reasons this novel has been challenged.


Of Mice and Men,
written by John Steinbeck, 1937
Two friends, George and Lennie, are migrant ranch workers, moving from place to place in order to find work during the Great Depression. George is intelligent but uneducated. Lennie, a very large, strong man, has limited mental abilities. The two dream of one day being able to buy their own land and settling there together.  Unfortunately, there are forces at work in the world around them that make this dream impossible.

This tragic story has been challenged for "vulgar language".


The Catcher in the Rye,
written by J.D. Salinger, 1945
Sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield narrates the story of the few days following his expulsion from an expensive prep school.  Themes of teenage angst, alienation, loneliness, and rebellion are present throughout the book.  Without telling his parents that he's been expelled (yet again), Holden leaves his school and travels to New York City.  He stays by himself in a hotel there, going out at night to clubs and meeting all sorts of people.  Later he sneaks into his own home to see his little sister Phoebe.  He wants to leave and head out west, but in the end he stays.

Reasons for challenging this classic include "occultism, violence, sexual content, and being dangerous and vulgar".


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl,
written by Anne Frank,
originally published in 1947,
this version published in 1991
and edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler
An autobiography, this is the actual diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl living in the Netherlands during the time of the Holocaust.  Anne, her family, and a couple of others went into hiding, sequestering themselves in hidden rooms inside her father's office building.  They lived there for two years before being discovered and taken to concentration camps.  (Anne later died of typhus, only a few weeks before her camp was liberated by British soldiers.)  Anne received a diary as a gift about a month before going into hiding.  She made several entries during that time, and then continued writing about her life after the family moved to the hidden rooms.

This book has been challenged because of "offensive passages" and for "being a real downer".  Apparently it paints too realistic a picture of the Holocaust.  I guess Anne should've left the depressing parts out of her diary?


written by George Orwell, 1949
This dystopian novel takes place in Oceania, "where society is tyrannized by The Party [-- headed by Big Brother --] and its totalitarian ideology".  Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, and his job is to revise past newspaper articles (destroying the old ones) so that the historical record always supports the current party line.  Secretly, Winston hates The Party and dreams of rebellion.  He later meets Julia, another "thoughtcriminal" like himself.   The two develop a relationship and make plans to help out The Brotherhood, a secret organization bent on bringing down The Party.

People have challenged this sci-fi novel for containing "pro-Communist material and explicit sexual matter".


Fahrenheit 451,
written by Ray Bradbury, 1951
In a world where books are illegal and buildings have been made fireproof, Guy Montag's job as fireman is to start fires (burning confiscated literature), not put them out.  He never questions the societal rules he follows until he meets Clarisse, a young girl who talks about the ideas she's read in books. Soon Montag himself starts saving books from fires and hiding them in his home -- but what will happen when his actions are discovered?

I find it quite ironic that this book about censorship has been challenged, for being "offensive".


Lord of the Flies,
written by William Golding, 1954
An airplane full of English school boys crashes into the sea near a deserted island.  The survivors, including Ralph and Piggy and Jack, make their way to the island and then try to live together there with no guidance from adults.  They start out with rules and cooperation, but their little society quickly degenerates into two groups, the hunters and the hunted.

Apparently, this book has been challenged for being "demoralizing, inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal".


Flowers for Algernon,
written by Daniel Keyes, 1959
Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man, is eager to learn and longs to become smart, like other people.  He agrees to submit to an operation on his brain, a scientific experiment that has dramatically increased intelligence in the laboratory mouse, Algernon.  The experiment works and in a short amount of time, Charlie goes from an IQ of 68 to genius, creating many unexpected difficulties in his personal life. Then, ominously, Algernon begins deteriorating.  Will the same thing happen to Charlie?

I've read this book at least four different times, and it leaves me crying every time.  "Explicit, distasteful love scenes" is the reason given for challenging this touching, classic novel.


What are some of your favorite banned/challenged young adult novels?  Banned Books Week may end today, but I plan to keep on reading books from the lists of challenged books throughout the year.  How about you?

1 comment:

  1. Such great books- some of my favorites. I didn't even realize they were challenged. How narrow minded can the critics be?