Happy Banned Books Week! This week is all about bringing awareness to books that have been challenged in the past and thinking critically about why we, as a society, want to challenge books based on their content.
According to the American Library Association, 483 books were challenged or banned around the country in 2018. Most often, these books were challenged because of LGBTQ+ content. And most often, parents are the ones who are petitioning for the bans or challenges in order to shield children from seeing content that is considered questionable.
Here are some of my favorite banned books, and a quick reason why they’ve been challenged or banned, as well as why I love them!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (banned for profanity, alcohol use, violence, and sexuality): I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story of an underrepresented population, Native Americans. It is such a well-written, poignant, and semi-autobiographical novel with rich insights into adolescense, especially as a minority.
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by John Oliver (LGBTQ+ content): I love this adorable book about a same-sex bunny couple! It helps me explain to Nolan that LOVE is LOVE! (And I am always 100% fine with jabs at VP Pence.)
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney (sexual content & challenges to authority): I remember reading & re-reading this book as a middle schooler. It’s kind of a crazy story that deals with a young girl’s kidnapping, cult activity, and digging into the truth. Great for young kids with a budding interest in true crime.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (obscene language, drug/alcohol/tobacco use): Sure, let’s ban a book about BOOK BANNING. *eye roll* This is one of the first dystopias I ever read, and I devoured it. If you haven’t read this modern classic, do it now.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (obscene language, sexual content, violence): Though this book isn’t always the easiest to teach, it is one of my favorites. I love seeing the joy in the eyes of students when they figure out that the world isn’t always as it seems at first glance.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (sexual content, suicide, anti-Christian themes): I don’t think I need to talk about my love for this book, just see my review for The Testaments.
The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling (witchcraft, violence, students in danger): I don’t think I can say anything to justify this magical world. But also, yes: things that happen at Hogwarts are absolutely ridiculously unsafe and you do need to warn kids against this 😉
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (violence): Katniss is my queen, the end.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein (some poems encourage disobedience): The poems specifically called out for encouraging disobedience are “How Not To Have to Dry the Dishes” and “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony.”
Looking for Alaska by John Green (sexual content & profanity): John Green is a master at describing teenagers. This is the first book I read by Green, and probably my favorite.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (sexual content, profanity, sexism): Jodi Picoult is a prolific modern author, and this is one of her most heartbreaking novels which forces you to ask yourself: how far would you go for your sister?
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (gang violence, alcohol abuse): Hands down my favorite book to teach to children! They get so into it. And the movie is AMAZING.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (sexual content, profanity): A phenomenal book about growing up and learning to embrace yourself.
The Witches by Roald Dahl (witchcraft, animal cruelty): I can say nothing bad about ANY ROALD DAHL book.
Which of these banned books have you read?