Literature and Writing

What They Don’t Want You to Read: Banned and Challenged Books

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Torn Pages. Forbidden Topics. Burned Books. Sounds Familiar?

There are images one may read in Fahrenheit 451. These are also realities and ways people use to censor literature this year, last year, and the year before. Banning is a practice that has been a part of human history for centuries. From different cultural issues to political views and religious norms, the banning attempts are vast. Like using a phone booth and writing essays by hand, book banning is something many people like to think is a thing of the past. But according to research, this practice is massive and continues to increase annually with thousands of books banned in the USA.

The Little-Known History of Banned Books in the United States

A few people know how the practice of banning and challenging books started in the United States. Interestingly enough, the story begins with a little town in Massachusetts that hosted Thomas Morton with a group of Puritans in 1624. It turned out to be a great experience for Morton in terms of expressing his concerns about the rules and values of the Puritans and American society in the 17th century. He left the town to set up his own living environment, known as Quincy, with different customs. Moreover, to reinforce this experience, Morton published New English Canaan. He critiqued and attacked Puritan customs so vigorously that it shocked readers, and since none asked the author for a sequel, the book was banned. During the 17th century and centuries after, a typical form of book censorship was burning.

The United States shares the practice of book banning and burning with some of the darkest figures in history. For instance, the infamous Roman emperor Caligula considered The Odyssey by Homer to be a book worth banning due to its vivid depiction of Greek ideas of freedom. One of the most massive ways of bonfires made of stories created by Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Jack London, and others was organized in Nazi Germany. In present days, the burning and vandalizing of Harry Potter comes to mind. It is not as fiery but shows that responses to impressive books have not changed much.

Top Reasons for so Many Banned Books in America

There are many lists of books that are recommended for reading. Surprisingly enough, there are also more than one the USA banned book list. Why does this happen? According to studies, there are several reasons why different committees and organizations ban pieces of literature on the local and state levels.

As of the last 5 years, the top reasons include but are not limited to:

  • The depiction of sexual content;
  • The use of offensive language;
  • Stories that are unsuited to a certain age group;
  • The descriptions of conflicting religious viewpoints;
  • The use of characters that represent LGBTQIA+ community;
  • The inclusion of violence, racism, drugs, alcohol, and smoking
  • The depiction of "anti-family" scenes;
  • The discussion of undesired political viewpoints.

Many believe that readers should not be exposed to these elements in literature because they may negatively impact the cultural growth and development of the whole nation. In other words, some stories are deemed as dangerous to the current status quo in society and are challenged to prevent any unfavorable changes in the minds of common people.

In Honor of Banned Books: Stories that Have Impressed Generations but Nevermore

While the practice of banning books in US schools includes thousands of volumes (it is difficult to get a precise number because many prohibitions are implemented locally), there are some cases that demand additional attention.

Gone With the Wind. It is a classic novel that was accused of unfavorable portrayal of slavery and racism. Many generations have been inspired by Scarlett. Currently, Margaret Mitchell’s words “I’ll think about it tomorrow” can be turned into “I’ll read about it later, maybe.”

Harry Potter series. When children’s books are banned, it makes people think about current values and the overall direction of society. As such, readers in New Mexico (or their parents) burn these volumes regularly. The series is also challenged in 19 states due to its depiction of magic and other issues related to the author.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Another story for children. Perhaps, someone should have told to the author to stop using “nigger” in the story because it is now deemed inappropriate and is not allowed to say or read.

Ten little Niggers. The title says it all, and while the book is not described as offensive, the title had to survive a metamorphosis and is now known as And

Then There Were None. This development is not something the author could have predicted.

Nineteen Eighty-Four. The big brother is watching this book, and it is challenged or banned or being pro-communist, but is it?

While the list of banned books 2023 USA continues, we are sure that many people can find their favorite stories there. Notably, many books that have been previously banned are now available in public literature. So, it may be that one day we will reconsider how books are consumed and whether the tendency to ban them should continue in a progressive society.

There Are No Banned Books in Florida, or Are There?

Is there a safe haven for books in the United States? Are there places with no book trials, bans, and rules of what people are allowed to read? Well, the answer is not in Florida. However, recently people have been under the impression that all novels and other stories are allowed in schools and libraries. We have conducted research and can say with confidence that more books are challenged every year in the state. As such, during the 2022-2023 school year, more than 350 volumes were banned across different school districts in Florida.

Since an official order that prevents books from being read was issued by individual school districts and by state officials, a press secretary for DeSantis, Jeremy Redfern, mentioned in one of his emails that books are not banned in Florida. A great concept that has fallen into pieces by the harsh realities of the literature world. However, there is a coping mechanism for such a prohibition, and it is called reading no matter what. But it is not for everyone. For instance, Mark Hamill addressed the alleged list of books banned in Florida and commended that it is a good recommended reading list.

Writing a Book Report in College: Banned Books Challenge Accepted

With every prohibition there is a way to challenge it. Generally. For instance, when schools discuss a certain book and decide whether it should be excluded from a curriculum, teachers may give students assignments that address this topic.

Some examples of such homework include book reports, reviews, and essays that require students to choose a book from the Challenged Titles list (or books currently banned in the USA), research why it was/is a banned book and write about if the reason(s) for it to be a challenged title is well-founded. Also, professors may give an extra credit assignment and ask to prepare a paper about classic books banned in various parts of the world.

Such homework usually requires presenting an argument, considering both sides of the matter, and, most importantly, reading a book under question. It works great and aligns with the vision of many modern authors like Steven King who encourage students to go to a bookstore and “find out what they don’t want you to read.” Do you feel rebellious and ready to explore the realm of forbidden stories?

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