Tag Archives: censorship

Creative Take on Book Banning

Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”

Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”

Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

By Kate Boryeskne (click any image or her name for more).
Via: HuffPost Books

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Copyright Free Images for Banned Book Week

Images free to reuse; sourced through a Creative Commons Search.

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Authors Speak out on Censorship

Ellen Hopkins

Pete Hautman

Laurie Halse Anderson

Via Buzzfeed, where there are 8 more quotes about censorship.


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Grant Snider Warns Us to Ban Books

Incidental Comics


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John Green on Accusations of Pornography

John Green’s award winning YA novel Looking for Alaska is being embraced by some school boards and banned by others. The author’s response to this controversy is both humourous and enlightening.

Read: Censorship and Looking for Alaska in which pediatrician Joel Singerman discusses the role the controversial scene plays in the novel.

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Freedom to Read Week: Banned Book Displays

By covs97

By Sarah Atwood

By covs97

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Sunday Surfing Selection: Freedom to Read Week – Feb. 26-Mar. 3, 2012

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak
just because a baby can’t chew it.
~ Mark Twain


Freedom to Read Week – Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Their website includes activities and resources including “a selective timeline of book bannings, burnings, and other censorship activities” beginning at 259 BC.

Lawrence Hill awarded Freedom to Read prize for his grace under fire This year’s prize goes to the Hamilton, Ontario author of The Book of Negroes:

“Burning books is designed to intimidate people. It underestimates the intelligence of readers, stifles dialogue and insults those who cherish the freedom to read and write. The leaders of the Spanish Inquisition burned books, Nazis burned books.” ~ Lawrence Hill

Top 10 Banned Books Of The 20th Century I have class sets of 5 of them in my high school novel studies. (There are other, different lists out there.)

To Ban or Not to Ban: Books Recently Challenged – Indigo September 2011

Censorship in a different form and a dangerous venue for misinformation: In The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia, author Timothy Messer-Kruse writes of his struggle to have “the people who had assumed the role of keeper of this bit of history for Wikipedia” accept his verifiable changes to an article because they value secondary over primary sources.

Shakespeare and Native American Authors Among Those Banned From Tucson Schools – As part of its compliance with a state ban on ethnic studies, the Tucson Unified School District has banned its Mexican American Studies program and a number of books including The Tempest by William Shakespeare and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years. Some of the authors weigh in at the update.

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”
~ Potter Stewart

Book Burning by Edward Andersson

“Censorship always defeats it own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”
~ Henry Steele Commager
Text of position statement on library image background - No restrictions on image use

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Dickens and Censorship

Freedom to Read Week is coming up, so to round out this Charles Dickens series I looked for incidences of his work having been challenged or even banned, I was happy to have found very little. Oliver Twist, the title used for the sculpture below, was the only Dickens I could connect with any attempt at censorship. I particularly like the clever play on the Dickens’ title used for the title of the work.

O-Livre Twist by Maria G. Pisano

O-Livre Twist, an altered book, is a response to book censorship. When books are censored, culture and history are erased. The work takes the destruction of a book to the extreme, literally altering it through pulping and creating a package that no longer has legible meaning.” Maria G. Pisano

Coincidentally or not, Oliver Twist is the only book by Charles Dickens that I can find to have been challenged. There is mention of bannings in post-WWII Germany and Austria in this 1949 article regarding a Canadian film challenge. The world had become very aware of the dangers of bigotry after the war.

Notably, there were complaints of antisemitism in Oliver Twist as early as its first publication 100 years earlier. Dickens’ characterization or caricaturization of Fagan as a “fiendish Jew”, and indeed referring to him often in those early chapters as “The Jew”, offended many. The challenge in this case not only had merit but was somewhat progressive for its era. After an unfortunate response to an early complaint (source) , Dickens responded with thoughtful wisdom and may have demonstrated either cultural sensitivity or good marketing skills.

“The novel refers to Fagin 257 times in the first 38 chapters as “the Jew”, while the ethnicity or religion of the other characters is rarely mentioned.[69] In 1854, the Jewish Chronicle asked why “Jews alone should be excluded from the ‘sympathizing heart’ of this great author and powerful friend of the oppressed.” Eliza Davis, whose husband had purchased Dickens’s home in 1860 when he had put it up for sale, wrote to Dickens in protest at his portrayal of Fagin, arguing that he had “encouraged a vile prejudice against the despised Hebrew”, and that he had done a great wrong to the Jewish people.[73] Dickens had described her husband at the time of the sale as a “Jewish moneylender”, though also someone he came to know as an honest gentleman.

Dickens took her complaint seriously. He halted the printing of Oliver Twist, and changed the text for the parts of the book that had not been set, which is why Fagin is called “the Jew” 257 times in the first 38 chapters, but barely at all in the next 179 references to him. In his novel, Our Mutual Friend, he created the character of Riah (meaning “friend” in Hebrew), whose goodness, Vallely writes, is almost as complete as Fagin’s evil. Riah says in the novel: “Men say, ‘This is a bad Greek, but there are good Greeks. This is a bad Turk, but there are good Turks.’ Not so with the Jews … they take the worst of us as samples of the best …” Davis sent Dickens a copy of the Hebrew bible in gratitude” (Wikipedia)

Fagin. Image from "The 100 Greatest Jewish Movie Moments" (#70) Click to link

“Ben Kingsley plays Fagin as Polanski brings back the anti-Semitic tropes other Dickens adaptations went out of their way to avoid. When Fagin finds out Nancy has been killed and begins to pace and mutter (“Oy, oy oy,”), the dark and problematic complexity of his character restored.” (HEEB)

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“Rather than defining “inappropriate” as “books that deal with topics I find squicky,” I prefer to define “inappropriate” as “books that deal with their subject matter in a way that a particular reader can’t make sense of.” When I talk about whether or not a book is “inappropriate,” what I talk about is whether or not the book handles its subject matter – from sex and drugs to puppies and rainbows – in a way that its actual or intended audience can engage with.” ~ The Literary Cricket

Dani Alexis

I’ve been re-reading Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series in preparation for the first movie, which comes out at the end of March.  I’ve also been re-thinking about the challenge that put The Hunger Games on the ALA’s “Books Challenged and/or Banned in 2011” list: a complaint from a New Hampshire mother to the Goffstown School Board in 2010.

This particular mother’s problems with The Hunger Games were, according to the School Library Journal, that the book gave her eleven-year-old daughter nightmares and might numb other children to the effects of violence.  “There is no lesson in this book except if you are a teenager and kill twenty-three other teenagers, you win the game and your family wins.”  So says the school board’s minutes, anyway.

Whether or not one agrees that this is the only possible take-away point from The Hunger Games (spoiler: I don’t), there’s other interesting issues involved…

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