When Book Banning Fails: Top Challenged Books in America
Book censorships result in one of two things: banning or challenging. When a book is banned, the material is completely removed from public consumption. When a book is challenged, however, it means that an individual, or group, has submitted a motion to ban the material.
There have been many banned books over the years, but there are books that have been challenged over and over. In fact, some of these challenged titles have greatly shaped literature today. Here are some titles and authors that have been constantly challenged since their publication.
- David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing
Levithan is popular for many novels catering to young adults, or YA. Most of his romances include homosexual relationships, which have been the cause for challenges. Regardless of the challenges, Levithan continues to write novels, both heterosexual and homosexual, to normalize LGBT relationships.
- JK Rowling, Harry Potter Series
Rowling’s Harry Potter books have been the top challenged books of the 2000s. Many religious groups have motioned for the books to be banned because of mentions of “witchcraft” and the “occult.” Nevertheless, the books have become modern classics in children’s literature and have a wide international following to this day.
- Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Despite being hailed as one of the greatest books of all time, both Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been challenged by many groups because of coarse language, racial stereotypes, and the use of the word “nigger.”
- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Adapted into a Tony-winning Broadway musical, Fun Home tackles Bechdel’s life growing up in a home where her father was secretly gay. Later on, Bechdel’s father takes his own life after finding out that Alison was a lesbian. The book had been challenged multiple times because of depictions of violence and graphic images.
- Judy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Judy Blume’s Margaret as well as many of her other books have been subject to challenges because of tackling subjects that are considered “sensitive.” These include menstruation, sex, puberty, bullying, and masturbation. Through all these trials, Judy Blume has become a vocal advocate for freedom of information.
- EL James, Fifty Shades of Grey
James’s erotic fiction has been subject to much controversy ever since its publication because of its nature. Some countries have successfully banned it, and there are those that are still continuing to challenge it.
- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Palahniuk has always had quite a unique writing voice, and while many of his works were lauded, many were also criticized. One of his most popular novels, Fight Club, has been challenged since 1996 for being sexually explicit, violent, and anarchistic. Although most of his work have these themes, Fight Club is his most popular book.
- Toni Morrison, Beloved
A widely lauded and one of the most celebrated African American authors of all time, Toni Morrison has took it upon herself to create fiction reflecting the African American struggle. This meant including depictions of violence, coarse language, and racial slurs. Beloved, as well as her other books, face constant challenges.
- Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This mystery novel takes after the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, who is quoted in the title. However, the book has been challenged in more conservative parts of the country because of crude language and disrespect to religion. Originally targeted for readers of all ages, the book is now promoted to be more ideal for high school students or older.
- John Green, Looking for Alaska
John Green’s first novel has been lauded by many critics, and given awards, including the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association. The story is about a boy named Miles who attends a boarding school and meets an enigmatic girl named Alaska. The book has been challenged for depicting sexual scenes, profane language, hints of suicide, and for being “age inappropriate.”
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