Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from libraries shelves and from classrooms. According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts. Despite being widely accepted as classic literature, these titles are often banned or challenged for the same reasons as contemporary books.
The titles below represent banned or challenged books on that list, and some of the latest reasons why.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
* Challenged, but retained on the shelves of Limestone County, AL school district (2000) despite objections about the book’s foul language.
* 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.
* Removed by a Dorchester District 2 school board member in Summerville, SC (2001) because it “is a filthy, filthy book.”
* Challenged by a Glynn County, GA (2001) school board member because of profanity. The novel was retained.
* Challenged in the Big Sky High School in Missoula, MT (2009).
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
*Challenged at the Cummings High School in Burlington, NC (1986) as an optional reading assignment because the “book is full of filth. My son is being raised in a Christian home and this book takes the Lord’s name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it.” Although the parent spoke to the press, a formal complaint with the school demanding the book’s removal was not filed.
*Challenged at the Moore County school system in Carthage, NC (1986) because the book contains the phase “God damn.”
*Challenged in the Greenville, SC schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a “vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.”
*Challenged in the Union City, TN High School classes (1993).
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
*Challenged by a Glynn County, GA (2001) School Board member because of profanity. The novel was retained. Returned to the freshman reading list at Muskogee, OK High School (2001) despite complaints over the years from black students and parents about racial slurs in the text.
*Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High School’s sophomore literature class (2003) as being degrading to African Americans.
*Challenged at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, NC (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word “n*****.”
*Challenged at the Brentwood, TN Middle School (2006) because the book contains “profanity” and “contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest.” The complainants also contend that the book’s use of racial slurs promotes “racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy.”
*Retained in the English curriculum by the Cherry Hill, NJ Board of Education (2007). A resident had objected to the novel’s depiction of how blacks are treated by members of a racist white community in an Alabama town during the Depression. The resident feared the book would upset black children reading it.
*Removed (2009) from the St. Edmund Campion Secondary School classrooms in Brampton Ontario, Canada because a parent objected to language used in the novel, including the word “n*****.”
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
*Removed from the Jackson County, WV school libraries (1997) along with sixteen other titles. Challenged, but retained as part of a supplemental reading list at the Shawnee School in Lima, OH (1999). Several parents described its content as vulgar and “X-rated.”
*Removed from the Ferguson High School library in Newport News, VA (1999). Students may request and borrow the book with parental approval.
*Challenged, along with seventeen other titles in the Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary libraries (2002), by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. The group contends the books “contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture.”
*Challenged in Burke County (2008) schools in Morganton, NC by parents concerned about the homosexuality, rape, and incest portrayed in the book.
Ulysses, by James Joyce
*Burned in the U.S. (1918), Ireland (1922), Canada (1922), England (1923) and banned in England (1929).
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
*Challenged in the Sarasota County, FL schools (1998) because of sexual material. Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading listing 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 Coeur d’Alene School District, ID (2007). Some parents say the book, along with five others, should require parental permission for students to read them.
*Pulled from the senior Advanced Placement (AP) English class at Eastern High School in Louisville, KY (2007) because two parents complained that the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about antebellum slavery depicted the inappropriate topics of bestiality, racism, and sex. The principal ordered teachers to start over with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in preparation for upcoming AP exams.
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
*Challenged in the Waterloo, IA schools (1992) because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled.
*Challenged, but retained on the ninth-grade accelerated English reading list in Bloomfield, NY (2000).
1984, by George Orwell
*Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell’s novel is “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.”
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
*Challenged at the Marion-Levy Public Library System in Ocala, FL (2006). The Marion County commissioners voted to have the county attorney review the novel that addresses the themes of pedophilia and incest, to determine if it meets the state law’s definition of “unsuitable for minors.”
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
*Banned from the George County, MS schools (2002) because of profanity. Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High Schools (2003) because the books contains “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values.” An alternative book, Steinbeck’s The Pearl, was offered but rejected by the family challenging the novel. The committee then recommended The House on Mango Street and The Way to Rainy Mountain as alternatives.
*Retained in the Greencastle-Antrim, PA (2006) tenth-grade English classes. A complaint was filed because of “racial slurs” and profanity used throughout the novel. The book has been used in the high school for more than thirty years, and those who object to its content have the option of reading an alternative reading.
*Challenged at the Newton, IA High School (2007) because of concerns about profanity and the portrayal of Jesus Christ. Newton High School has required students to read the book since at least the early 1980s. In neighboring Des Moines, it is on the recommended reading list for ninth-grade English, and it is used for some special education students in the eleventh and twelfth grades.
*Retained in the Olathe, KS ninth grade curriculum (2007) despite a parent calling the novel a “worthless, profanity-riddled book” which is “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”
Source: American Library Association, Office of Intellectual Freedom