Banned Books

For hundreds of years books have caused controversy. This controversy swirls around the issue of banning; the removal of material that for some reason an individual or group finds offensive.

Books are usually challenged with good intentions.  For example, people want to protect children from inappropriate language or sexual content. In some cases, people argue that some books are “unsuited” for any age group.  Sometimes the objections get out of hand. If we banned every book just because someone found one word in it objectionable, shelves would likely be empty.

Since the first book was printed on paper back in the 1400’s many attempts have been made, and continue to be made to ban books.  Here’s a look at books that have been banned. Some of the titles may surprise you.

Ulysses by James Joyce:

This book was banned in the United States from 1918 to 1930 after being declared “obscene”.  Fans of Joyce fought feverishly to have the ban lifted and finally succeeded in 1933.

Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault:

An illustrated edition of the book was banned in two California school districts back in 1989 as the book shows the heroine taking food and wine to her grandmother. People complained about the use of alcohol in the story.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:

This book has been banned from the juvenile section of the Brooklyn Public Library and banned from the library in Concord, MA.  There have also been lawsuits over its use as a teaching tool at the high school level in the United States. People have objected to what they call “offensive” words in the book.

The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare:

Known around the world as a literary masterpiece, the Merchant of Venice was banned from classrooms in Midland Michigan in 1980. This was due to its portrayal of the Jewish character Shylock. It was also banned in schools in Buffalo and Manchester New York in the 1930’s.

The Bible:

In some countries around the world it is illegal to manufacture the bible and in other places the bible is banned. For example, in 2005 Scotland’s Edinburgh University banned Bibles from campus residence halls, calling it discriminatory and unwelcoming to students who were of different faiths. In 2006 a British airline banned bibles for airline personnel flying to Saudi Arabia, afraid of upsetting Muslims with non-Islamic material.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank:

This story of a hopeful young girl who died in the holocaust was banned by the Alabama State Book Committee in 1993 because it was “a real downer”.  It has often been described as one of the best examples of the theme of good versus evil.

Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum:

A true classic – first published in 1900, adapted for stage in 1902 and then making it to screen in 1939, the Wizard of Oz was banned by the city of Chicago in 1928 in all of its public libraries.  In 1957 the Detroit Public Library also banned the book. The management said the book had “no value for children” and brought children’s minds to a “cowardly level”.

Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs:

The Tarzan series of books were banned in Los Angeles, California in 1929 because although Tarzan and Jane are fictional characters, they are living in the jungle together without being married- yes Tarzan and Jane, living in sin!

The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling:

Not everyone sees the Potter series as a powerful and magical story and an example of standing up for your friends. Some people see it as an inappropriate depiction of witchcraft for Christians. Among those who have banned Harry Potter, a Massachusetts Catholic school.

So now you think you have heard it all? Maybe not… Did you know that a southern California school board banned the dictionary?  It was banned in 2010. They pulled the Merriam-Webster Dictionary off shelves after a parent complained about the definition of “oral sex” in the book.


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