Banned Books Week, the annual American event documenting literary censorship is now in its 30th year. This year the American Library Association (ALA) is highlighting just how many books in the classic canon have been championed and challenged simultaneously. It is an astounding read, revealing the often ludicrious reasons why classic books were banned, and how some are still being challenged.
Many of the complaints teeter on the edge of absurdity. Brave New World was removed from Missouri classrooms in 1980 for making promiscuous sex “look like fun”; The Diary of Anne Frank was challenged for being “a real downer” in 1983, and The Lord of the Flies was contested in 1981 for being “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.”
Attempts to censor books continue, The Lord of the Rings was ceremoniously burned in 2001 for being ‘satanic’; One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest challenged in 2000 for simply being “garbage”, and To Kill a Mockingbird in 2006 for “promoting white supremacy”. This is an entirely inaccurate representation of the novel, of course, but the racist language used was an accurate representation of the time, and to censor history is akin to denying it altogether.
The ten most challenged titles of 2011 included The Hunger Games trilogy and My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy. And the most frequently challenged literature of the 21st century? And Tango Makes Three, a picture book based on a true story of two male penguins who adopted an egg in a New York Zoo, topping the most challenged list in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Daisy Williams is an Editorial Intern at Index on Censorship