Forbidden Fruit

To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list

  ~John Aikin

It’s Banned Books Week (September 24 – October 1)! As an avid reader and writer, I look forward to this initiative every year.  I love the fact that educators, librarians, authors and book enthusiasts around the nation collectively tell censors to suck it.

Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, makes a list of the most challenged titles.   Here’s what the Thought Police attempted to eradicate in 2010:

And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sex education, sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, violence, unsuited to age group

Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group

What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint

Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit

Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence, unsuited to age group

I experienced a profound sense of glee when I realized I’ve read almost all of these books. Anything that I haven’t read was quickly added to my Goodreads shelf.  The reasons for the challenges are expected, quite unoriginal and completely counterproductive.  The best way to get someone to read a book is to ban it!

Perusing the challenged lists, I reflected on my experience as a young student reader.   Schools are continually ground zero for Book Wars and one might assume the Catholic schools I attended withstood constant moral battles between parents and the administration.  However, I can’t recall one time where a book was removed from the library or curriculum for any reason.  I remember wishing that we could read more contemporary fiction instead of Thomas Hardy or Willa Cather for the zillionth time, but it’s apparent even the “classics” aren’t safe.

I thought my high school AP English teacher was completely out-of-touch until she assigned “The Color Purple”, “East of Eden” and “Go Ask Alice”, all frequently challenged. The discussions surrounding those books ensured that my mind stayed blown the entire year.   I shudder to think what I would have missed in terms of my personal and literary growth if those titles had been kept from me.

Strange as it seems, one of my goals as a writer is to produce a challenged work.   If people are screaming from the rooftops in protest of your book, that means you’re definitely onto something.

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