America’s Ten Best banned books
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain
To celebrate last week’s designation as ‘Banned Book Week’ by the American Library Association, we’ve taken a few selections from their list of the most frequently challenged books from 1990 to 2000. Let’s start off with this little gem, one of the finest works of American fiction ever penned. Written almost completely in dialect, this sucker offended the mothers of potential readers with its liberal use of the ‘N’ word.
The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
The story of Tom Joad and his travels across the Dust Bowl is, in my opinion, Steinbeck’s greatest work, stunning in its portrayal of frustration, desolation and hope in the face of marginalization. I also don’t think he uses a single word with more than three syllables. It was probably banned because at the very end a woman’s breast makes an appearance, though in a completely unsexy way.
The Earth’s Children series
by Jean M. Auel
It all started with The Clan of the Cave Bear, a tale of Ayla, a Cro-Magnon woman abandoned at birth and raised by a tribe of Neanderthals set on or around the dawn of time. It was banned for several reasons, the most prominent probably being a few instances of rape-like sex, but what do you expect? They’re Neanderthals. Also, the story directly contradicts creation theory.
by Judy Blume
This book about bullying a poor little fat girl was banned for foul language and because the bully never got what was coming to her. I say it’s indispensible because this is the book that taught me the meaning of the word ‘flenser.’ (It’s the guy who cuts the fat off of whales.)
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl
Honestly, I have no idea why this fanciful tale from the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was put on the banned list. All I can think of is that the giant peach in question looks even more like a butt than the giant peach next to the highway outside of Gaffney, SC.
by Michael Willhoite
I’m pretty sure I know why this one got bumped from the curriculum. Written for children of same-sex couples during the gay renaissance of the 1990s and in the same spirit as another tome, Heather Has Two Mommies, it was just a little too far out for Middle America.
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Can somebody please tell me why To Kill a Mockingbird was banned? Was the message too powerful? The prose too elegant? The characters too well-drawn? Was it because of Boo Radley, or maybe the incestuous rape? All I know is this was the first book I ever read that made my heart ache. And I didn’t know Scout was a girl until like 30 pages in.
The Catcher in the Rye
by JD Salinger
As a smart-mouthed, malcontented, chain-smoking teenager I identified with Holden Caulfield like no other character in any other book. It changed my life, and at one point I used to reread it every spring. It also gave me my first catch phrase: ‘“Did you give her the time in Ed Banky’s car?’”
In the Night Kitchen
by Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak gained notoriety with his cast of pencil-drawn, cross-hatched monsters that inhabit children’s nightmares in Where the Wild Things Are. How, you ask, did this illustrated book for little kids get banned? Nudity, for one. Mickey loses his pajamas when he falls down in the kitchen and you can clearly see his butt. Also cited as a reason for banning is persistent phallic imagery.
How to Eat Fried Worms
by Thomas Rockwell
They pulled this one from the shelves because it encouraged ‘“inappropriate behavior.’” Three guesses as to what kind of behavior they’re talking about. But in all honesty, I must have read this book 25 times before I turned 12 years old and I never once had the desire to eat one of the squiggly things. And even if I did, what’s the big deal? The way I see it, eating a worm is a mistake kids will make just the one time. But then, I’m still waiting on my Father of the Year award.