Category Archives: BannedBooksWeek

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – A Banned Book

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Scholastic Books, New York, 1999

Borrowed from my friend Alex, who is ten.  Winner of so many awards I can’t list them all.

Okay, so most of you know the story.  As an infant Harry is left with his Aunt and Uncle and their nasty son, Dudley.  For ten years he is ignored, harassed and forced to live under the stairs.  Then shortly before his eleventh birthday letters delivered by owls start to arrive and all hell breaks loose.

Harry is invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns his parents were magicians, killed by “he who must not be named” and that he somehow survived that deadly attack.  He finds acceptance, friendship and self-worth along with amazing skills at Quiddich.  This series honors friendship, encourages stepping beyond one’s comfort zone and taking responsibility for one’s actions.   All the while it is filled with action, excitement, ghosts and mythical monsters.

So why is it at the top of this list?   There are, of course, many arguments on the literary value of these books.  I have seen many children who disliked reading drawn into this series and, through them, learn to love the written word.   So, even though I find some of those arguments valid, I believe J.K. Rowling has done a great thing by writing them.  I also think she did an excellent job following Harry and his friends into young adulthood.

Discussing intellectual merit, and challenging or banning a book because of content, are two very different things.  Many challenges have come from Christian fundamentalists or churches, claiming that the books promote an interest in witchcraft and the occult.  These books are fantasy, not true stories, and offer a great opportunity for discussions about the history of folktales and fairy tales  and the transmission of knowledge and ethics through generations of storytellers.

There are those that feel Harry lies, cheats and struggles against authority figures, thereby promoting “bad behavior”.  I have never known an adolescent who doesn’t question the adults around her, along with many of the rules of the prevalent culture.  These questions and arguments often work to keep adults honest, with young people and with each other.  This is one way a culture expands and evolves into something greater, more empathetic and ethical.

I think wanting to ban the Harry Potter books is just silly.  If a parent or educator honors the children around them, works to foster trust and communication and is willing to take the time to listen, brilliant and thought-provoking discussions can happen when reading Harry Potter.  It might even be a good thing to read the books together.

I won’t even attempt to discuss the movies…


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Books, Fantasy, Thoughts

Banned Books Week

Sunday marks the beginning of the 30th Banned Books Week.  One of my favorite journalists, Bill Moyers and his wife Judith Davidson Moyers have been named honorary co-chairs for this event, which runs from September 30th to October 6th.  There is a great post from Steven Isenberg, the executive director if the PEN American Center here.

I am constantly amazed at the number and scope of the books that are challenged or banned across the world, for any number of reasons.  The above link has many lists and Melissa at The Feminist Texican has a list of books currently banned by the Tucson, Arizona school system.

Looking at the top 100 books banned in the first decade of the 21st century I couldn’t help but notice Number One on that list.  I will be rereading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone over the next few days.  Don’t you think that goes nicely with R.I.P.VII?

1 Comment

Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Events

A Banned Book – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Perigee Books, New York, 2006

I own this one.

For Banned Books Week I decided to read a young adult classic that has been repeatedly challenged and banned in the US and Canada.  I am also including this one in my books for the R.I.P. VI challenge.

This novel was required reading for me in high school.  I read it again in college and, after several decades, have chosen to read it one more time.

This story of a group of boys who survive a plane crash on a small island is probably familiar to many people.  It is, on the surface, a tale of adventure.   On their own, with no adults, the boys can do what they want.  At first there is a sense of order and camaraderie as  Ralph, and his friend Piggy attempt to organize the group.  The boys gather food, plan to build shelters and organize the keeping of a signal fire.  Soon another boy, Jack, gathers a group and takes off to hunt the wild pigs that roam the island.  Jack wants to lead,  invites dissension and eventually something like war.  A tale of adventure turns to a story of horror and madness.

According to Golding,  Lord of The Flies is not simply an adventure story.  When asked he stated, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable.”*

I found it to be a narrative on personality, the place of individuals in human society and on group mind, mob mentality.  Of course these are children, would adults behave the same way?

Lord of the Flies wonderfully written, filled with beautiful evocative scenes and nightmarish horror. I read it deeper this time.  It is one of those “required” reading books that I found best read as an adult.

The first rhythm that they became used to was the slow swing from dawn to dusk.  They accepted the pleasures of the morning, the bright sun, the whelming sea and the sweet air, as a time when play was good and life so full that hope was not necessary and therefore forgotten.  Toward noon, as the floods of light fell more nearly to the perpendicular, the stark colors of the morning were smoothed to pearl and opalescence; and the heat – as though the impending sun’s height gave it momentum – became a blow that they ducked, running to the shade and lying there, prehaps even sleeping.  From page 58.

Toward midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and trickle of water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown earth of the island.  The air was cool, moist and still.  The beast lay huddled on the pale beach, and the stains spread, inch by inch.  From page 153.

*This quote is from Notes on Lord of the Flies by E.L. Epstein from my copy of the book.


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Classic, Horror, RIP VI Challenge, Young Adult

Banned Book Week – Sept 24 to Oct 1, 2011

Banned Book Week is coming.  For lists of banned books and special events including  the Virtual Read-Out visit ALA  or the Banned Books Week website.  I am going to try to read  a couple of frequently banned books for R.I.P. VI.   Does Lord of the Flies count as dark fantasy?

What will you read?


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Events

Do You Read Banned Books?


Banned Books Week

September 28-October 3, 2009

“That’s why it’s so important to resist censorship. We believe parents do have the right to dictate their children’s reading, but that right exists for their children alone and should not be extended to others.” Quoted from author Philip Pullman found in The Guardian.  Thanks for the link, Masha!

The following is the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 novels of the 20th Century. According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom 42 of them have been targets of ban attempts.  The titles of these books are in bold. The reasons for the challenges are listed here.  How many have you read?

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

13. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
41. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E. M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
66. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

The American Library Association’s Banned Books website.

From the Banned Books Week web site, a list of things you can do to support Banned Books Week.


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Events

Banned Books Challenge


For Banned Books Week a challenge organized by Trisha at eclectic/eccentric.  The challenge runs through September 2010 and there is no required number of books to read.  Trisha would love it if we reviewed all the books on the ALA Books Banned between 1990-1999 list. Join us!


Filed under Banned Books 2009/2010, BannedBooksWeek, Challenges

Banned – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

067960023X.01._SY190_SCLZZZZZZZ_ In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

by Truman Capote

The Modern Library, New York, 1992

The book that changed true crime journalism, first published as a serial in the New Yorker in the fall of 1965, began as a one-column story on page 39 of the New York Times dated November 16, 1959.  It read “Wealthy Farmer, 3 Of Family Slain.

The victims were members of the Clutter family, proud owners of the River Valley Ranch, outside the town of Holcomb, Kansas.    The father Herbert,  the mother Bonnie,  their son Kenyon, fifteen, and the youngest daughter, Nancy, sixteen.

Two weeks later Truman Capote, a writer from New York City,  was on his way to Kansas.  Capote’s interest in the murders lead to an extended investigation.  He  spent the next six years interviewing people from the farming community of Holcomb, friends and family of the murder victims,  policemen and agents involved in the investigation, and eventually the murderers, Richard Eugene Hickock, and Perry Edward Smith as well as their families.

Capote wished to create a new form of literature, something based in fact that used the arts of fiction.  He worked in a way no journalist had every attempted, and by the time the articles appeared, had created a work  that mesmerized the country.

He interviewed the people who had first entered the house on that quiet Sunday morning, including Nancy’s best friend, Susan.

“So I did,” said Susan in a statement made at a later date.  “I called the house and let the phone ring–at least I had the impression it was ringing–oh, a minute or more.  Nobody answered, so Mr. Ewalt suggested we go to the house and try to “wake them up.”  But when we got there–I didn’t want to do it.  Go inside the house.  I was frightened, and I didn’t know why, because it never occurred to me–well, something like that just doesn’t.  But the sun was so bright, everything looked too bright and quiet..”

Capote captured people’s thoughts and carefully put them into words.  Here is Andy Erhart, a friend of the family;

Of those present, none had been closer to the Clutter family than Andy Erhart.  Gentle, genially dignified, a scholar with work-calloused hands and a sunburned neck, he’d been a classmate of Herb’s at Kansas State University.  “We were friends for thirty years,” he said some time afterwards, and during those decades Erhart had seen his friend evolve from a poorly paid County Agricultural Agent into one of the region’s  most widely known and respected ranchers: “Everything Herb had, he earned–with the help of God.  He was a modest man but a proud man, as he had a right to be. He raised a fine family.  He made something of his life.”    But that life, and what he made of it–how could it happen, Erhart wondered as he watched the bonfire catch.  How was it possible that such effort, such plain virtue, could overnight be reduced to this smoke, thinning as it rose and was received by the big, annihilating sky.

And Capote was ingratiating, he gained people’s trust, most significantly the trust of  Smith and Hickock.  In Cold Blood recreates the wild cross-country journey they took after the murders.

Approximately four hundred miles east of where Arthur Clutter then stood, two young men were sharing a booth in the Eagle Buffet, a Kansas City diner.  One–narrow-faced, and with a blue cat tattooed on his right hand–had polished off several chicken salad sandwiches and now was eying his companion’s meal: an untouched hamburger and a glass of root beer in which three aspirin were dissolving.

“Perry, baby,” Dick said, “you don’t want that burger.  I’ll take it.”

Perry shoved the plate across the table.  “Christ, can’t you let me concentrate?”

“You don’t have to read it fifty times.”

The reference was to a front-page article in the November 17 edition of the Kansas City Star.

In Cold Blood is probably the best account of an American crime ever written and the model for all future true-crime books.  It conveys the environment created by these murders, the impact on those who suffered the after effects and the life stories of the two men who committed the murders in cold blood.

For wonderful insight into the author and his creative process see Capote, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

In Cold Blood is a Banned Book.

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Banned, but later reinstated after community protests at the Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga. (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was apart of an Advanced Placement English Class. Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, R.I.P. IV

Sunday Salon – Banned Books Week


We  interrupt this Sunday Salon for a special announcement.  This week those of us living in the United States are celebrating the freedom to read.  Have you read Fahrenheit 451 or The Book Thief?  Pay close attention.  Book burning could happen anywhere.

Banned Books Week

September 26-October 3, 2009

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

— On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

Banned Books Week is a national celebration in support of the freedon to read and of First Amendment protection.  It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, libraries and bookstores.  Since than over one thousand books have been banned and challenged.  These instances of censorship have taken place in every state and in hundreds of communities across the U.S.

People challenge books for all kinds of reasons but most are trying to protect children from language they consider inappropriate or from sexually explicit material.  Other challengers are protesting offensive portrayals of religious or ethnic groups.  Recently many protests have centered around positive depictions of homosexuality.

The following pie chart of reasons for challenges is from the American Library Association web site.

Grounds for Challenge

If you would like to take part in Banned Books Week there are many ways to do so.  Organize reading at your local library, school or bookstore, spread the word through your blog, read or re-read a banned book and encourage your friends to read banned books!  The ALA has lots of great ideas here.


Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Sunday Salon