The power of the written word has changed whole collective mind-sets, sparked revolutions, and changed lives on micro and macro levels.
Considering this, it’s no surprise that the powers that be have often attempted to limit the public’s access to certain written materials in an effort to retain control over the masses.
In the digital age, with so much information at our finger tips, it’s easy to forget what a stunning, far-reaching impact the written word has had on humanity.
It took the courage and resilience of the few to make education, information, and change possible for the many.
In honor of Banned Book Week, here is a highlighted list of books that have faced challenges reaching the public.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s classic has faced much controversy since its inclusion in the classroom as early as 1963. Some have been uncomfortable with Lee’s inclusion of profanity, racial slurs, and candid discussion of rape in her novel. As recently as 2017, some were still calling for a ban on the book’s inclusion in schools.
The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel has definitely ruffled some feathers in its time. The Color Purple is number 17 on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged or banned books. The reasons most often cited for controversy are language, violence, homosexuality, and its depiction of stereotypically violent black men.
The Lord of the Rings
Though J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high-fantasy trilogy is widely lauded as the literary masterpiece that it is, it has also been met with some push-back. Though Tolkien was a devout Catholic and many Christian themes can be found in his work, a local group in Alamagordo, New Mexico felt the books were satanic and promoted witchcraft. They displayed their displeasure by burning Tolkien’s books outside of Christ Community Church in 2001.
A National Health Service anti-smoking group in Plymouth, England also felt that children should not be allowed to view the film adaptions of The Lord of the Rings because it would promote smoking to youth.
Annie on My Mind
Published in 1982, this young adult novel by Nancy Garden chronicles the love story between two teenage girls. Because of its LGBT plot, Annie on my Mind has often been challenged. Most famously, it was burned on the steps of the Kansas City school district headquarters in 1993.
Bastard out of Carolina
This semi-autobiographical novel by Dorothy Allison is set in South Carolina and took 10 years to write. Bastard Out of Carolina is a southern novel reminiscent of Faulkner. It was nominated for the National Book Award, but not before it made some waves with its depictions of poverty, child abuse, class, race, and violence.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
D.H. Lawrence’s famous novel is not only a frank and authentic exploration of sexuality, but sexuality primarily from the female perspective. In spite of its literary merit, it caused a great deal of trouble after its publication. It was put on trial for obscenity in Britain in 1960 and in Japan in 1950. Additionally, it was banned in Australia and the United States.
The Satanic Verses
With a title like, The Satanic Verses, it’s perhaps not surprising that Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel ran in to some controversy. Written in the genre of magical realism, Rushdie’s novel is inspired in part by the life of the prophet Mohammed. This sparked great controversy in the Muslim community for what many felt to be blasphemous references. As the outrage spread, the book was banned in India, burned in the UK, and caused serious threats to Rushdie’s physical safety.
Freedom of speech is essential to any civilized nation. How fortunate we are that brave writers laid pen to paper to speak their truth to any courageous enough to hear it!