Great Book, Let’s Ban It!

Since 1982, book folk (libraries, publishers, readers) have celebrated “Banned Books Week,” setting aside the last week of September to examine literature that’s been “challenged” or banned” around the country. Here are some books removed from shelves…for some very odd reasons. 

Banned Books Week

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

The Judy Blume novel about a girl’s awkward struggle through adolescence is a classic and a cultural touchstone, but one school tried to ban it for being “profane” because it speaks honestly and openly about the title character’s first time menstruating.

Lord of the Flies

A school district tried to remove William Golding’s harrowing novel about boys trying to survive in the wild because it suggested that humans, at their core, are nothing more than animals. (That is kind of the thesis of the novel.)

Harriet the Spy

One library didn’t like how the title character in this enduring kids novel by Louise Fitzhugh uses deception and antisocial behavior to solve mysteries. Or, in other words, how she spies.

My Friend Flicka

There’s a lot of animal terminology in Mary O’Hara’s book about the special bond between a young lady and her horse. At one point, someone refers to a female dog by a word that starts with “b” that is commonly used as a derogatory term for women. Even though the book employs the word in its correct, animal-based usage (and not its vulgar slang use), some libraries and schools have still pulled it off the shelves.

Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings

A town in Michigan banned this book — which lays out the fundamentals of the Buddhist religion so that readers may decide if it’s a religion they might like to pursue — in 1987 because it “detailed the teachings of…Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion.”

The Stupids Die

Harry Allard’s The Stupids books are a series of children’s titles about a family named the Stupids who are, well, stupid. A jurisdiction in Michigan tried to ban The Stupids Die in 1998 because leaders were worried kids might read it and then think it’s okay to call someone “stupid.”

1984

George Orwell’s landmark future-dystopian novel was challenged in Jackson County, Florida, in 1981 for a purported pro-Communist slant. Ironically, when it was published in the Russian language in the late 1940s, it was banned by the Soviet government for attacking communism.