Words have power—read a banned book! Each September, the Jacksonville Public Library celebrates First Amendment rights during Banned Books Week. At this time, we encourage readers to pick up books that have been banned or challenged in the United States.
Here are some of our favorite works of banned and challenged fiction!
By John Steinbeck—An intimate portrait of two men who cherish the slim bond between them and the dream they share in a world marred by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. Clinging to each other in their loneliness and alienation, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie dream of a place to call their own. But after they come to work on a ranch, their hopes, like "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men," begin to go awry.
According to PBS, challengers of this book have complained about Steinbeck's strong language, thematic elements, and an alleged "anti-business attitude." The book has also been called out for its negative attitude toward African Americans, women, and the disabled.
By Toni Morrison—Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old African American girl living in Ohio in the early 1940s, wishes and prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be beautiful. Her story is interwoven with that of her parents—Cholly Breedlove, Pecola's abusive father, who himself was rejected by his parents, and her lonely mother, Pauline, who endured her husband's drunkeness and tried to raise her children the best she could.
Since its publication, the book has been consistently featured among American Library Association’s list of most challenged books for its sexual and graphic material. Others complain about the book's political agenda.
By Neil Gaiman—The story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he is plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness—the Neverwhere. If he is ever to return to the London Above, Richard must join the battle to save this strange underworld kingdom from the malevolence that means to destroy it.
The book was famously pulled from the shelves in a New Mexico school district after a parent's complaint about Gaiman's inclusion of foul language and sexually explicit material.
By Rudolfo Anaya—Six-year-old Antonio embarks upon a spiritual journey under the watchful guidance of Ultima, a healing woman, that leads him to question his faith and beliefs in family, religion, and other aspects of his Chicano culture.
This book was first challenged in 1992 for its "vulgar" Spanish language and alleged glorification of witchcraft.
By Margaret Atwood—Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
The book has been banned in schools and libraries on the grounds of its profane language and explicit depictions of sex.
By Alice Walker—Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. This classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.
This book was challenged in Oakland, California due to the work's "troubling ideas about race relations."
By John Grisham—A Southern town is shocked when a 10-year-old black girl is raped by two white men—until the girl's father takes the law into his own hands.
Grisham's graphic rape and murder scenes have placed this book on ALA's Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list.
By Alice Sebold—This is the tale of family, memory, love, and living told by 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who is already in heaven. Through the voice of a precocious teenage girl, Susie relates the awful events of her death and builds out of her family's grief a hopeful and joyful story.
Many parents have found this story too frightening for middle school students.
By Tim O'Brien—Related stories, linked by recurring characters and an interwoven plot, recreate an American foot soldier's experience in the Vietnam War.
This collection of stories earned its controversial status due to its profanity, images of war, and realistic depictions of sex, drugs, and violence.
By Isabel Allende—A magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.
The book has been challenged for its graphic depictions of sexual situations.
Celebrate your First Amendment rights by putting a banned or challenged title on hold today!