Last week ended the National Library Association’s Banned Book Awareness Week, which commemorates the top 10 most frequently banned books of all-time. This week, we would like to look at a few books that have been banned or challenged that didn’t quite make the list, but raise an eyebrow at what makes a book, well, ban-able. At a certain point, you really have to wonder how schools are even allowed to teach children to read in the first place …
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Dairy of Anne Frank may deal with issues small children are incapable of understanding. However, the fact that it is the true account of a young Jewish girl during occupation of the Nazi regime didn’t seem to bother the Northville school district in Michigan in 2013. It was Anne Frank’s description of her transition into puberty that ruffled some serious feathers. The book was labeled as “pornographic” and “inappropriate” by those calling for its removal from classrooms.
Death by gas chamber? Okay. Hormones? No way.
Quote: “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Written in 1865, by Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the most widely recognized and influential children’s fantasy books across the globe. In 1931, however, it was banned in China due to the fact that, “animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put humans and animals on the same level.”
Upon further research, there is no evidence that parrots were banned in China during this time.
Quote:“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.”
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, was published in 1877. It tells the heartbreaking story of a horse who falls on hard times before Sarah McLachlan was around to make people feel bad about it. Although animal abuse isn’t exactly a polarizing subject, it is believed that the book was banned in South Africa during the Apartheid era for featuring the word “black” in association with “beauty.” While there are not any actual black people in the story, the book was thought to be mistakenly labeled as a black rights novel, which, of course, proves how incredibly ignorant it is to judge a book by its cover.
Quote: “Only ignorance! Only ignorance! How can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? — and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,’ they think it is all right.”
I heard once that you can actually find Satan hiding in between one of the pages of “Where’s Waldo” if you search hard enough with the lights dim. It’s true, my cousin did once.
Well, maybe not. But you can see a topless lady on the beach. Also, it kind of looks like the guy next to her, umm, well, likes what he sees.
Well, a few parents got together and decided they didn’t, resulting in the book being banned in 1989, in Saginaw, Michigan and in 1993, in East Hampton, New York from public school libraries. The subsequent aftermath was known as, “The day the back of the bus went silent.”
Quote: “What I’m trying to say is I gave him that look, because, when I originally thought of the character who was lost in all these scenes, I just imagined that the reason why he was lost was because he was slightly idiotic and didn’t know where he was going.”– Martin Hanford, Creator of Where’s Waldo.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
What has morally polarized witches, aerodynamic monkeys and a whole population of people suffering from congenial dwarfism? The fear of “ungodly influences” is what. Or, at least that’s what Pat Robertson, American media mogul and host of the 700 Club, thought in 2004, when he tried to get “The Wizard of Oz” banned. It seems the book has been too scary for many people over the course of history, ever since its publication in 1900. The most notable challenge to its inclusion in school curriculum was in Tennessee in 1986. Several families opposed the novel due to the fact that it was “theologically impossible” for good witches to exist, since it is well known that all witches are by nature, evil.
That’s just one of those arguments you have to nod your head and back away slowly from.
Quote: “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?”
Harry Potter Series
Everyone loves to hate you when you get too popular. Another really fashionable reason to dislike a book is the presence of witchcraft, so one cannot be too surprised that many have called for a ban on the “Harry Potter” series since the first book was released in 1997. It has been ranked seventh on the list of most challenged books in American libraries between 1990 and 2000, and according to the American Library Association the series is the most challenged of the 21st century.
Jacksonville gets an honorable mention here, when in 2000, the public library faced a lawsuit from the “Liberty Counsel of Orlando,” a conservative Christian advocacy group who became concerned when the library awarded “Hogworts’ Certificates of Accomplishment” to young readers who finished the forth novel. A concerned parent complained that, “If they are going to pass out witchcraft certificates they should also promote the Bible and pass out certificates of righteousness.” The lawsuit was dropped after the library agreed to stop.
Quote: “Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”
The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, tells a story of a family migrating west during the great depression. It has been applauded for its realism and accurate portrayal of the hardships of the many tenant farmers who were driven from their homes because of drought and poverty. Only in Kern County, California, the endpoint to the fictional family’s journey, felt the book portrayed its relief efforts for migrants a little too accurately and banned it from libraries and schools. Many believed the book to advocate for organized labor and fair wages, which, ahem, is bad for business.
The book was banned for a year and a half during the 1930s. One local librarian stood up against the ruling, stating, “It’s such a vicious and dangerous thing to begin. Besides, banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile. Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading.”
Eventually, the overturning became influential in the creation of the Library Bill of Rights, which helps ensure all citizens get free and equal access to information.
So, unlike the book, the real story has a happy ending.
Quote: “You’re bound to get idears if you go thinkin’ about stuff”
We can only hope.