This week marks the 30th annual Banned Books Week, which highlights the value of free and open access to information. Since its inaugural year, more than 11,000 books have been challenged (though not necessarily successfully banned) by parents, schools, and other organizations that believe the availability of these books threatens the values they hold dear.
However, the first amendment to the United States Constitution, which was ratified by Congress in 1791, states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Despite the legal right of individuals to freely choose what to read, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom records hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from library shelves and from classrooms each year. Why?
“Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856–1941), Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357 (1927)
Check out these twenty-five banned or challenged classics, all of which appear on the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. I can’t imagine a culture in which these books didn’t exist:
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
- Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
- Native Son, by Richard Wright
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
- Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
- For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
So this week, be REBELLIOUS. Pick a challenged book and celebrate your freedom to read it. Leave a comment and let us know which one of these treasured tomes you couldn’t live without.