Here I will take a look at some of the most controversial books written. Both old and new books, why they are so challenged, and effects on the readers. This lists includes everything from Catcher in the Rye to the Hunger Games.
Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
This book, written by John Cleland is notable because it was both the first erotic novel written in the English language, and the last book ever banned in the USA. The author was actually arrested upon publication. The charges? Obscenity.
It was illegal (but smuggled into the US quite often) until 1966, when a US court of law decreed it legal and never actually banned another book again.
Contains graphic depictions of sexual experiences.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
A tale of cruelty against African-American Slaves.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain's book of Huck Finn's exploits has even been debated - and in some cases banned - as recently as last year. Many people are outraged at the frequent usage of the "N" word in the text, and some have made it their personal crusade to have the book banned in schools. Even before this particular issue was addressed people were challenging Mr. Twain's work, with earlier critics proclaiming it "vulgar". They claimed that Huck Finn "not only itched, but scratched" and said things like "sweat" instead of "perspire". Good heavens, how ghastly!
The N word is cited as being in the text 215 times in total.
Catcher in the Rye
Vladimir Nabokov had trouble publishing this book, and rightfully so. At this time, however, there are several TV and film adaptations, though the script was always rewritten to cast the character in a more positive light. One reviewer - likely an agent or publisher - had this to say:
“It is overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian. To the public, it will be revolting. It will not sell, and will do immeasurable harm to a growing reputation. [...] I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
But it wasn't. And now this story - a first person narrative about a man who sleeps with his twelve-year-old daughter, is in print. It was banned in England, Argentina, New Zealand and France (It was originally published in Paris).
The creepy thing is that it was first published in 1958, and went on to be a best seller for two years!
This book is extremely disturbing and graphic. Will act as a trigger for those that have suffered sexual abuse.
More Recently Published
Go on, laugh. Yes, this is a young adult story about a dreamy "guardian angel". Not exactly competing for the most outrageously offensive title, right? I disagree. Though author Becca Fitzpatrick probably didn't mean for it to be controversial at all, many people see Hush, hush as glamorizing stalking and near-rape scenarios, which in my opinion, is dangerous. Spoilers ahead.
The lead man, Patch, who is brooding and dark and mysteriously angsty, is actually a fallen angel sent to kill Nora, the main character. She spends half the book in terror of him, trying to get away, but eventually she caves because, as we all know...no means yes.
May trigger those who have suffered sexual abuse.
For more on the debate surrounding Hush, hush: Hush, hush: Bad Romance
Winter Girls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, explores the world of anorexia in chilling detail. Critics of this book have accused it of serving as a "how to" guide to anorexia, as if young readers automatically do what they read. Many other people have said that it was deeply disturbing, but eye-opening.
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is now officially the 3rd most challenged work in US libraries this year. Complaints range from sexuality and violence, to anti-ethnic and anti-family and occult/satanic themes. Though the series has very violent themes, perhaps inappropriate for young children, there is little sexuality (a few very brief kisses) and no anti-ethnic and anti-family themes. And if satan made an appearance, it's safe to say I missed that part. Ironically, the day the list released Hunger Games as #3 most challenged, Mattel released their Katniss Barbie doll.
Totally safe for kids! Until she murders all your other Barbies...
More on the Hunger Games Controversy: A Call to Ban the Hunger Games
The IM Book Series
Lauren Myracle's IM book series includes TTYL, ttfn and l8r g8r. They are written entirely in IM short hand, if that isn't horrifying enough to make you shield your eyes with your Webster's dictionary, the books are number one on the banned books list of the American Library Association. Reasons are language, drug references and lots and lots of sexual content. Apparently the series is "true to life", complete with bullying, back stabbing and massive gossip sessions.
All I can say is KMN (kill me now).
I'm sure there are plenty of books I missed. Some banned for all the right reasons, some for all the wrong. What's your opinion on book censorship? Do some deserve to be banned from schools and be labeled as "too violent" or "too sexual"?