Why are books banned? There’s certainly some crazy reasons out there. Whenever I see banned books lists, it often bugs me that it doesn’t say why they were banned in the first place. So, I thought I’d do some research for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday and compile a list for you!
Reading banned books is important for so many reasons. It shows that even reading can be an act of rebellion; even if you don’t always agree with them, reading about a variety of opinions gives you a balanced view of the world. It’s also interesting to question the difference between a ‘classic book’ and a ‘good book’.
I don’t agree with banning books. Unless in extreme places, surely what’s ‘appropriate’ to read should be decided by the individual, not a distant board of education, right? Plus, another pro of banned books: it feels pretty cool to say you’re reading something that was once illegal.
As always, this great tag was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish but is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s such a fascinating topic, what do you think – should books should be banned? Do you enjoy reading banned books? Let me know in the comments!
1) Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
What’s it about? I’d never heard of this book until I started my summer challenge of watching all of Winona Ryder’s movies! In rawness and emotional power, Girl Interrupted surpasses Edward Scissorhands and even Heathers; I really enjoyed this portrayal of teen girls in a 1960s mental health hospital. It was deeply moving. Plus, it has an all star female cast with Angelina Jolie alongside Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg and Brittany Murphy. What’s not to like?
Why was this book banned? Both memoir and film cover quite triggering subjects, but that’s not necessarily a problem as long as you supply trigger warnings. In the early 2000s, New York officials physically ripped out pages of Girl, Interrupted and removed it from school reading lists. It’s since been returned, because it’s incredibly important that we understand how the treatment mental health has changed, and read about real people’s experiences. The book is a snapshot into 1960s life and I’d highly recommend it.
2) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
What’s it about? THUG is one of the strongest young adult books I’ve read. It combines an empathetic cast with a powerful story and makes you really think – everyone should read it. It’s at the top of my recommendations list of young adult books that tackle racism, which you can find here.
Why was this book banned? In 2017, The Hate U Give was challenged for having explicit language. I don’t understand schools’ obsession with avoiding books with profanities – have they never heard teenagers speak? In this case, it seems like a pretty weak reason to deny students this incredible book. What do you think?
3) The Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum
What’s it about? When someone says banned books, you don’t really think of Dorothy and the Yellow Brick Road. This book needs no synopsis, but is one of the most iconic kids books out there. Did you know that Baum intended for there to be child eating flowers in The Wizard of Oz, but his publisher said it wasn’t really appropriate. I wonder why…
Why was this book banned? I bet you didn’t know this. In 1928, the Chicago Public Library banned The Wizard of Oz because it was supposedly ungodly. Why? Because it ‘depicted women in strong leadership roles’.
4) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
What’s it about? You’ve probably read, studied or, at the very least, seen Sinise’s film adaptation of this classic American novel. A few years ago, I analyzed it in an English class and found the bittersweet narrative cinematic and moving. This book is like a time machine back to The Great Depression.
Why was this book banned? It’s an interesting one. After being accused of racism, Of Mice and Men was removed from many school reading lists. When I studied it, our teacher read an unabridged copy aloud and I remember them excusing racial slurs as ‘a product of the time’. Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable book to analyze, for both me and black classmates.
There’s the argument that books like Steinbeck’s are valuable classics… but maybe it’s time we study new classics. There’s a plethora of worthy books out there that empower and educate, rather than being another stuck record plagued with racism. I’m not saying we can’t learn from Of Mice and Men. But there the ‘product of its time’ argument is wearing a bit thin. There will be similar books set in the 1920s that we could study in school that don’t make students uncomfortable… books I’ve never even heard of because I was busy studying Steinbeck.
5) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
What’s it about? This deliciously trippy kid’s book was the basis of my childhood. It’s weird and wacky and has inspired countless portal fantasies, including the Johnny Depp films and a play I did in drama about Wonderland being drug induced haze for coping with grief. Bet you didn’t know that!
Why was this book banned? In 1931, certain regions of China banned this book because it portrayed animals as equally intelligent as humans. Supposedly, if children learned to view animals as equal to humans, it would be ‘disastrous’. Wonder what the RSPCA would say about that…