Tag: Banned Books

10 Most Challenged Books of 2020

Every year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom releases a list of the top ten most banned or challenged books of the year. They take surveys and reports from libraries, schools, and independent media; and even then, they reported that “82-97% of book challenges remain unreported and receive no media.”

That being said, of the 273 books the ALA saw mentioned as being challenged, these are those that were the most recurrent.

 

  1. George by Alex Gino

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

George focuses on a young, born male, child who knows deep down she is a girl. When the class puts on Charlotte’s Web, George goes through challenges to try and audition for the role of Charlotte.

Despite being an overall hopeful story, this book was restricted, challenged, and banned for LBGTQIA+ content, religious standards, and not “reflecting the values of our community.”

 

2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

From Amazon, “The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.”

This novel has been banned or challenged because of public statements from both authors, a claim of limited storytelling that does not encompass the full picture, and because it “does not encompass racism against all people.”

 

 

3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kelly

All American Boys
Image Via BPS EdTech Team

This novel centers on a 16-year old boy who is mistakenly arrested, violently at that, for shoplifting at a bodega where he was just shopping. The story follows the victim, Rashad, as well as the adopted son of the cop, Quinn, as they must grow up quickly and learn to deal with the reality of police brutality.

All American Boys was banned for a myriad of reasons, including: drug use, alcoholism, anti-police views, and because the topic was “too sensitive” for the times.

 

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson's 'Speak'
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Speak is a novel about a freshman in high school learning to be herself and grow in the face of trauma. It is a story of healing against all odds and learning to use your voice to stand up for yourself.

This classic novel was banned or challenged because it was said to be “anti-men” and for its inclusion of sexual assault.

 

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

This National Book Award winning novel follows Junior, a boy who grows up on an Indian reservation, but transfers to a public school for high school. The school is almost all white, and the only other Indian is the school’s mascot.

This was banned for profanity, sexual references, and alleged misconduct by the author.

 

6. Something Happened in Our Town (A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice) by Marianne Celano

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

This children’s story follows two families, one white and one black, as they try to understand a police shooting in their town.

This important story was banned or challenged because of what was thought to be anti-police views. Are you sensing a common theme here yet?

 

 

 

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

IMAGE VIA AMAZON

If you’re unfamiliar, To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the Finch family: children Scout and Jem and their father, acclaimed lawyer, Atticus. Set in the Great Depression, the children are forced into a situation of watching racism unfold in the justice system as Atticus defends a black man for a crime it is clear he did not commit.

Though this book has been a staple in high school literature classes, it was still challenged for its racial slurs, the image of the “white savior,” and for a negative portrayal of the black experience.

 

8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men book cover
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Another classic, this novel follows two brothers, one neurodivergent, as they pursue their dreams of opening their own farm and ranch.

This book is yet another banned for racial slurs.

 

9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

the Bluest Eye
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

The first novel by the beloved (pun-intended) author Toni Morrison, this story follows Pecola, a young girl who wishes for blue eyes so that the world will see her differently.

Contrary to the other books in this list about racial issues, this book was actually banned for sexual abuse and misconduct.

 

10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

the hate u give book cover
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

This modern classic follows Starr, a young African American teen caught between two worlds: that of her home in the hood, and that of her primarily white private school. When one of Starr’s friends is killed in an incident of police brutality, Starr must face this divide head on and decide where her loyalties lie.

This book was, again, banned for anti-police messaging amongst profanity as well. Thomas described the ban as a “badge of honor.”

 

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Did these bans serve purpose, or are they merely trying to stifle the harsher truths of a modern country riddled with injustice?

How do you feel about banning books? Let us know!

 

Feature Article with Images from Amazon
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Censorship: A Literary Tug of War

Censorship is everywhere and the general assumption is that it’s for the utmost moral reasoning. From a young age, people instantly recognize the bleeps on TV and know they weren’t supposed to hear the naughty words coming from the screen. It’s so ingrained in us so young that no one thinks to question it until adulthood. People go through an equal amount of experiences that hopefully allowed their skin to thicken to such things no rational person would pepper into a child’s ever-developing brain. However, there is indeed a large divide between an obscenity being blurted out and something much more obtrusive to the artist’s vision. While censorship can have some positive benefits to it, just like an egg in a frying pan the degree set can quickly burn away everything that was worthwhile.

When it comes to the world of literature, censorship can often steers away from the moral standpoint that is practically the sole principle that holds the whole idea together. I’m focusing on American Literature specifically because I feel this is where it’s the most contentious, which brings us to the grandaddy of timeless American classics: Mark Twain. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a ton of different controversial themes are painted in a more starkly realistic light. The poor downtrodden of the south, race relations of the time, child abuse, con artistry, slave liberation, racial acceptance, and to put it bluntly, the perfuse usage of the N word are all covered through the novel. At the time the book was being heavily criticized and censored to the point where some regional copies of the book were redacted to change what offended many members of Twain’s audience. What were these people trying to keep away from the younger eyes of all the controversial subjects listed? The diction of some of the characters.

image via medium

The whole novel takes place in the south where ostensibly people speak ‘funny’ as Twain once put it in some of his travel writing. Twain didn’t write the dialogue of Huck Finn the way he did out of malice but for accuracy. He believed that if his characters spoke authentically in their respective regions that it would drive the points the novel was making about how people treat one another that much further. A very effective way to reflect in real life is to make a distinct but subtle connection between the two, acting as a conduit for the readers.

Twain brilliantly chose the manner in which different characters spoke to make the world of Huck Finn feel as real and at times subtly tragic to the world he and his contemporaries inhabited. His critics on the other hand believed that the use of diction would instil bad grammar and speech in the youth. All while completely missing the point of the novel which was a grand statement on race that wouldn’t be too different from an abolitionist pamphlet, at least in a didactic sense.

As a result, the book was censored in a way that would fly over most people’s heads. Obviously, through modern eyes, the N word would be the focal point of the issue but for the popularity of the timeless novel. What shuts down that argument is that despite the word, the usage it drives home the point of how people interact with each other. Huck admires Jim as a father figure even though he uses the word just as much as the other characters do but Huck’s intentions are ultimately altruistic as he fights to set him free in the end. All of this brave content would’ve been lost had the censorship gone further and in fact, the argument against the book’s usage of the racial slur still comes up today. Once more with good intentions, these critics miss the point as to why it’s used.

Mark Twain

image via Smithsonian Mag

With a plethora of increasingly graphic content in books as well as other mediums ever-growing, this serves as a good example of when the purest idea of censorship can get muddled under issues that are fueled by a lack of understanding. The art suffers tenfold when people try to censor anything under the guise that the minds of the youth shall not be tainted by the content adults take for granted. When it’s not backed for the right reasons, the public doctors the novelist’s thoughts to something that more resembles a vivisection as opposed to a gulp of medicine.

If authors aren’t allowed to reasonably explore differing and oftentimes difficult subject matters then that alone can sully the minds of the youth as those ideas explored encourage them to etch out the literary landscape further. Stagnation of forethought is infinitely worse than any diction a southerner can muster. While censorship can help, I reiterate, in some disturbing scenes that I won’t go into detail about in say, Stephen King’s It, the line between safe tinkering via the masses and displaying the woes of mankind is finely drawn. Censorship can indeed be beneficial but only under just cause as well as forbearance for the sake of the message the world needs to witness.

Feature image via Flickr

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