September 30 to October 6 – what’s important about these seven days? In the literary world this week is known as Banned Book Week. Contrary to its title, the purpose of this week isn’t to stop reading certain books. Instead, it is a week devoted to reading books that have been banned throughout history. The following is a list of a few of the books that have been banned throughout history and the reasons for why they were banned.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Yes, the beloved Harry Potter has been banned and continues to create conflict after fifteen years of publication. The reasons behind banning Harry Potter are obvious: witchcraft and promoting homosexuality. I got a good laugh after reading a discussion board on a Baptist website entitled, “12 Reasons Why Harry Potter Should Be Banned” which stated that: “True Christians only touch a Harry Potter book when they are throwing it onto a fire.” Sounds sacrilegious to me.
Favourite Quote: “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol
Another childhood classic, Alice was banned for sexuality and drug use. Not to mention that there have been rumours about whether or not Carrol wrote the stories because he was in love with the real Alice (a ten-year-old girl). Despite these rumours, the story itself does not contain anything remotely sexual and no drug use is mentioned (unless you count one hookah-smoking caterpillar). In China, Alice was banned for fear that children would think that humans and animals were equal. How dare they?
Favourite Quote: “I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, because I’m not myself, you see.”
Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Surprisingly enough, this popular first read for many kids was challenged for showing children in a negative light. The main character, Max, is a mischievous child who throws a tantrum and his mother sends him to bed without dinner. Parents were outraged. A child…having a tantrum? And being punished for bad behaviour? Blasphemy! It was also banned for apparently promoting witchcraft.
Favourite Quote: “And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Believe it or not, The Great Gatsby was banned by a Baptist College in South Carolina for references to sexuality and strong language. And to think, I had to read this in high school! Can I just emphasize that it was a college banning The Great Gatsby – not a high school, not a grade school, but a college.
Favourite Quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
So if you’re feeling risky this week, indulge in a banned childhood classic or two. Let the brainwashing begin!
– Sarah O’Connor