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Books that have been banned and why

It's hard to believe, but much of our prized literature was at one time banned. Even so, many of what most people call masterpeices are the subject of many protests. Here is a short list of the most controversial books:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by celebrated African-American poet Maya Angelou was challenged in many American high schools in 1994. The book was said to contain "encouragement to partake in premarital sex, homosexuality and use profanity." Angelou is one of America’s most important writers, and this book is one of her most brilliant works. These accusations were made mainly in Texas, under George W. Bush, as well as in Iowa and Colorado. All accusations stated the book as "a lurid tale of sexual perversion" for its depiction of homosexuality as an appropriate lifestyle. These accusers seemed to ignore the fact that I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the landmarks of American (especially African-American) literature.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Canadian (whoo-hoo!) genius Margaret Atwood was removed from many Massachusetts high schools because it contained sexual situations and profanity. This was done in 1993. It has not since been re-instated, even though Canadian and British high schools have it on their ‘required reading’ lists and have not yet experienced disturbed students.

The Bible by… God, we suppose. This was charged as ‘obscene and pronographic’ in Alaska and Pennsylvania in 1993.

Jambo Means Hello: The Swahili Alphabet by Muriel Feelings was charged in New York for being somehow ‘degrading to white children,’ even though the book was intended for white children to help them to better understand black culture. This was done in 1994, but the school board quickly re-instated the book thereafter.

Brave New World, the chilling futuristic idea of Aldous Huxley was challenged in California in 1993. It was retained, though it is still fought against by many fundamentalist Christian organizations.

The Autobiography Of Malcom X was challenged in Florida in 1994 because it was considered ‘racist against white people’ and as a ‘how-to manual for crimes’.

The Catcher in the Rye, By J.D> Salinger, was challenged as ‘centering around negative activity’ and ‘encouraging sexual exploits’ in Wisconsin, California and New Hampshire.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is constantly under fire from conservative religious and political organizations. There is hardly a school in Canada or the U.S. that has not received some complaint about this book. This includes accusations that the book is ‘violent, vulgar, disrespectful, blasphemous and evil’. The ending to this novel has provoked even more comment, being called ‘hateful to women, the mentally retarded and with a terrible moral statement.’

Daddy’s Roomate by Michael Willhoite is an open-minded children’s book that encourages tolerance towards gay and lesbian relationships. Boy, did this one get dissed! When it was read in class to schoolchildren in Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Arizona in 1994, complaints flooded in, alleging that the book ‘promoted gay and lesbian relationships as appropriate.’ The book is in many libraries across Canada, but has been removed by most in the United States.

A Clockwork Orange deals with censorship and its damaging effects was censored itself. (Thanks to MavBowie47)

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl has been repeatedly challenged in Europe and North America for its depiction of the Nazis as ‘cruel and heartless’ (!) and for its description of Anne’s ‘low morals’. This book has been repeatedly defended, but it still the object of many attacks.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Leguin has been alleged ‘obscene and evil’ by many religious groups. The novel centres around a world in the future where people can choose which gender they are, and can cross standard gender lines. It is an effective look at our society and begs the question, "What is gender?" from the reader. It has been taken off of most ‘required reading’ lists since the attacks.

Katherine, Anya Seton’s biography of Katherine Swynford- John of Gaunt’s mistress and third wife- has been called ‘obscene and evil’ for its portrayal of the lovers as good people. Katherine and John do, in the end get married. Seton was allegedly amused, then offended, then bored by the accusations.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s brilliant survey of racism, prejudice and hypocrisy in a small Southern town has been called ‘racist (!) and obscene’ because it deals with a black man being accused of rape. The book has not been removed from many Canadian lists, though it has been taken off many U.S. high school programs.

Alice Walker's 1982 work The Colour Purple has been challenged repeatedly for its alleged 'hateful depiction of men' and 'sympathetic views towards single mothers.' Walker is an avid educator about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which some have deemed an inappropriate cause for a woman who has not experienced the cultures that practice FGM. What this has to do with the legitimacy of her work is questionable, but it is commonly raised as a reason for censorship of her writings. Also covered in her writing: rape, murder and domestic abuse.

Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye has been called "blashpemous" and "evil" for its depiction of the creator as both good and evil, the source of both hatred and love. The book also condemns the church, saying that the church has lost sight of real godliness.

Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly challenged, especially in the US. It is currently under 'review' in several Pensylvannia schools. The book is alleged to be racist and 'negative.' [Thanks to Court]

Shakespeare’s works have been called ‘disgusting, unsettling, profane and evil’ by many people over the years. Because his plays deal with such subjects as incest, war, rape and cannibalism, as well as hinting at homosexuality, illegitimacy, civil disobedience and premarital sex, they have been deemed by many (you guessed-mostly American) high schools as disrespectful and have been banned from the reading lists. No Universities have yet banned these works.

Oscar Wilde’s works have also been challenged. Wilde was an open homosexual and many of his works refer to this commonly. Many conservative groups of religious and political fanatics have gone so far as holding bonfires of this man’s work. Some have also occurred in Britain (possibly because Wilde was Irish…?) but very few elsewhere. Wilde was jailed during his lifetime for sodomy and homosexual acts, though they were all consensual. (thanks to Ally)

This list is always in the process of being updated and changed. If you feel we have missed any exceptional events, please contact us.

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