Have you ever read something in a book and thought “oh man, that’s a little controversial?” Well, you wouldn’t be the only one. For decades, people have been reading books and finding things they have problems with, both books that are new and books that are considered classics. Some of these people have taken so much offense to some of the topics and words written that they take it up with their local government to challenge the availability of the book in public libraries and attempt to get the book banned.
The process of getting a book banned begins with a challenge reported to the American Library Association (ALA). You must present the issues in the book in one or more of the following areas: racial issues, encouragement of damaging lifestyles, blasphemous speech, sexual situations or dialog, violence, witchcraft, religious affiliation, political bias or age inappropriateness. A challenge does not guarantee that the book will be banned. If the challenge passes to a ban, it will be issued by the local government. The ALA is not responsible for banning the books, just keeping record of challenged and banned books. Schools, bookstores and libraries are where the bans take place, but on an institutional basis. For example, if a book has been banned at Joyner Library on campus, that does not mean it is banned from the Greenville Public Library.
Now that we know what a banned book is and how the process flows, let's look at a short list of books that have been banned, the area they were banned in and the reasoning given for the ban.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: This book was banned from class reading lists in a Wake County, NC school for complaints about discussion of rape. Other reasons include age inappropriateness, offensive language and violence. People also challenged it in a Colorado high school and a Connecticut school district for these same reasons.
Looking for Alaska by John Green: This book was banned from class reading lists due to sexual content in two Tennessee school districts. Looking for Alaska was also challenged in a Wisconsin school district and a New Jersey high school. The book was also looked at for drug and alcohol use, age inappropriateness and offensive language.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: An Illinois middle school removed this book, but they later restored it with the conditions that parents had to consent their child to read the book. This book was challenged and temporarily banned for anti-family themes, drug use, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoints, sexual content and mentions of suicide.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous: With reasons of drugs, offensive language and sexual content, Go Ask Alice was removed from a South Carolina middle school’s curriculum.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This book was banned in a Louisiana school district for a decade before it was lifted, and it was also removed from a high school in Ontario, Canada. The reasons that this classic was banned include offensive language, racism and age inappropriateness.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This book had a widespread ban after the Netflix series based on the book aired in 2017, a decade after the book was published. Thirteen Reasons Why was the number one challenged and banned book that year, which is why the locations of this ban are not listed. The book was ultimately banned for discussion of suicide and the “glorification” of it, and the book also speaks about rape and drug and alcohol use.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: In 2017, this book sat at number eight on the top 10 list of most challenged and banned books. For this reason, the locations are again not listed. The Hate U Give is considered pervasively vulgar, discusses drug use, profanity and offensive language.
North Carolina lands in the top five states with the most book bans and challenges. Banned books are not ultimately inaccessible, but it is essential to know why they were banned before choosing to read. Some of these books speak on several triggering topics for many individuals. I have read most of these books personally, and I will say some were hard to get through, but they are great reads. The bans on some of these books are appropriate due to their content, but some books have been challenged for amusing reasons, and it’s easy to find these lists on the internet. What do you think about these book bans?