45 Banned Classics (24-46)

24. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

  • Challenged in many communities, but burned in Drake, ND (1973).
  • Banned in Rochester, MI because the novel “contains and makes references to religious matters” and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause. An appellate court upheld its usage in the school in Todd v Rochester Community Schools, 41 Mich. App. 320, 200 N. W 2d 90 (1972).
  • Banned in Levittown, NY (1975), North Jackson, OH (1979), and Lakeland, FL (1982) because of the “book’s explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language.”
  • Barred from purchase at the Washington Park High School in Racine, WI (1984) by the district administrative assistant for instructional services.
  • Challenged at the Owensboro, KY High School library (1985) because of “foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of bestiality, a reference to ‘Magic Fingers’ attached to the protagonist’s bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: ‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.”‘
  • Restricted to students who have parental permission at the four Racine, WI Unified District high school libraries (1986) because of “language used in the book, depictions of torture, ethnic slurs, and negative portrayals of women.”
  • Challenged at the LaRue County, KY High School library (1987) because “the book contains foul language and promotes deviant sexual behavior.”
  • Banned from the Fitzgerald, GA schools (1987) because it was filled with profanity and full of explicit sexual references:’ Challenged in the Baton Rouge, LA public high school libraries (1988) because the book is “vulgar and offensive:’
  • Challenged in the Monroe, MI public schools (1989) as required reading in a modem novel course for high school juniors and seniors because of the book’s language and the way women are portrayed.
  • Retained on the Round Rock, TX Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent.
  • Challenged as an eleventh grade summer reading option in Prince William County, VA (1998) because the book “was rife with profanity and explicit sex:”
  •  Removed as required reading for sophomores at the Coventry, RI High School (2000) after a parent complained that it contains vulgar language, violent imagery, and sexual content.
  •  Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, IL (2006), along with eight other challenged titles.  A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from  the books she’d found on the internet.
  • Challenged in the Howell, MI High School (2007) because of the book’s strong sexual content.  In response to a request from the president of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education, or LOVE, the county’s top law enforcement official reviewed the books to see whether laws against distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors had been broken. “After reading the books in question, it is clear that the explicit passages illustrated a larger literary, artistic or political message and were not included solely to appeal to the prurient interests of minors,” the county prosecutor wrote.  “Whether these materials are appropriate for minors is a decision to be made by the school board, but I find that they are not in violation of criminal laws.”

25. For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway

  • Declared non-mailable by the U.S. Post Office (1940). On Feb. 21, 1973, eleven Turkish book publishers went on trial before an Istanbul martial law tribunal on charges of publishing, possessing, and selling books in violation of an order of the Istanbul martial law command. They faced possible sentences of between one month’s and six months’ imprisonment “for spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” and the confiscation of their books. Eight booksellers also were on trial with the publishers on the same charge involving For Whom the Bell Tolls.

26. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

  • Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1933).

27. Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin

  • Challenged as required reading in the Hudson Falls, NY schools (1994) because the book has recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence, and degrading treatment of women.
  • Challenged as a ninth-grade summer reading option in Prince William County, VA (1988) because the book is “rife with profanity and explicit sex.”

28. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

  • Challenged at the Dallas, TX Independent School District high school libraries (1974).

29. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

30. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

  • Banned from public libraries in Yugoslavia (1929). Burned in the Nazi bonfires because of Sinclair’s socialist views (1933).
  • Banned in East Germany (1956) as inimical to communism.
  • Banned in South Korea (1985).

31. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence

  • Banned by U.S. Customs (1929).
  • Banned in Ireland (1932), Poland (1932), Australia (1959), Japan (1959), India (1959).
  • Banned in Canada (1960) until 1962.
  • Dissemination of Lawrence’s novel has been stopped in China (1987) because the book “will corrupt the minds of young people and is also against the Chinese tradition.”

32. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

  • In 1973 a bookseller in Orem, UT was arrested for selling the novel. Charges were later dropped, but the book seller was forced to close the store and relocate to another city.
  • Removed from Aurora, CO high school (1976) due to “objectionable” language and from high school classrooms in Westport, MA (1977) because of “objectionable” language.
  • Removed from two Anniston, AL High school libraries (1982), but later reinstated on a restricted basis.

33. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

  • Retained on the Northwestern Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, IL along with eight other challenged titles in 2006. A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from the books she’d found on the Internet.
  • First published in 1899, this novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward.

34. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

  • Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, GA (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was part of an Advanced Placement English Class.

35. Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie

  • Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Quatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India because of its criticism of Islam.
  • Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police who took threats to staff and property seriously.
  • In Pakistan five people died in riots against the book. Another man died a day later in Kashmir.
  • Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa or religious edict, stating, “I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death.”
  • Challenged at the Wichita, KS Public Library (1989) because the book is “blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed.”
  • In Venezuela, owning or reading it was declared a crime under penalty of 15 months’ imprisonment.
  • In Japan, the sale of the English-language edition was banned under the threat of fines.
  • The governments of Bulgaria and Poland also restricted its distribution.
  • In 1991, in separate incidents, Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator, was stabbed to death and its Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, was seriously wounded. In 1993 William Nygaard, its Norwegian publisher, was shot and seriously injured.

36. Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron

  • Banned in South Africa in 1979.
  • Returned to La Mirada High School library (CA) in 2002 after a complaint about its sexual content prompted the school to pull the award-winning novel about a tormented Holocaust survivor.

37. Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence

  • In 1961 an Oklahoma City group called Mothers United for Decency hired a trailer, dubbed it “smutmobile,” and displayed books deemed objectionable, including Lawrence’s novel.

38. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

  • The Strongsville, Ohio School Board (1972) voted to withdraw this title from the school library; this action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District, 541 F. 2d 577 (6th Cir. 1976).
  • Challenged at Merrimack, NH High School (1982).

39. A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

  • Challenged in Vernon-Verona-Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy sex novel.”
  • Challenged at the Fannett-Metal High School in Shippensburg, PA (1985) because of its allegedly offensive language.
  • Challenged as appropriate for high school reading lists in the Shelby County, TN school system (1989) because the novel contains “offensive language.”
  • Challenged, but retained in the Champaign, IL high school English classes (1991) despite claims that “unsuitable language” makes it inappropriate.
  • Challenged by the parent of a high school student in Troy, IL (1991) citing profanity and negative attitudes. Students were offered alternative assignments while the school board took the matter under advisement, but no further action was taken on the complaint.
  • Challenged at the McDowell County, NC schools (1996) because of “graphic language.”

40. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs

  • Found obscene in Boston, MA Superior Court (1965). The finding was reversed by the State Supreme Court the following year.

41. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

  • Alabama Representative Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of public funds for the “purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.” The bill also proposed that novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.  The bill would impact all Alabama school, public, and university libraries. While it would ban books like Heather Has Two Mommies, it could also include classic and popular novels with gay characters such as  Brideshead RevisitedThe Color Purple or The Picture of Dorian Gray (2005).

42. Women in Love, by DH Lawrence

  • Seized by John Summers of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and declared obscene (1922).

43. The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

  • Banned in Canada (1949) and Australia (1949).

44. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller

  • Banned from U.S. Customs (1934).
  • The U.S. Supreme Court found the novel not obscene (1964). Banned in Turkey (1986).

45. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

  • Banned in Boston, MA (1927) and burned by the Nazis in Germany (1933) because it “deals with low love affairs.”

46. Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

  • Banned in Ireland in 1962 because the Irish Board of Censors found the work “obscene” and “indecent,” objecting particularly to the author’s handling of the characters’ sexuality, the “explicit sex acts” and “promiscuity.” The work was officially banned from sales in Ireland until the introduction of the revised Censorship Publications Bill in 1967.
  • Restricted to high school students with parental permission in the six Aroostock County, ME community high school libraries (1976) because of passages in the book dealing with sex and an extramarital affair.
  • Removed from the required reading list for English class at the Medicine Bow, WY Junior High School (1986) because of sexual references and profanity in the book.
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