Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is an annual American Library Association event observed during the last week of September. Banned Books Week celebrates free and open access to information and intellectual freedom. Join the NCSU Libraries in celebrating this annual event by listening to excerpts from banned books read by members of the NC State community. Click on the play button to listen to excerpts from selected banned books.

1984 by George Orwell

1984

by George Orwell
Read by Jason Smith
Student

Challenged in Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell's novel is "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:41)

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm

by George Orwell
Read by Michael Stoskopf
Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

A Wisconsin survey revealed in 1963 that the John Birch Society had challenged the novel's use; it objected to the words "masses will revolt." In 1968, the New York State English Council's Committee on Defense Against Censorship conducted a comparable study in New York State English classrooms. Its findings identified the novel on its list of "problem books"; the reason cited was that "Orwell was a communist." Suppressed from being displayed at the 1977 Moscow, Russia International Book Fair. (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:39)

 

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

by Judy Blume
Read by Jennifer Castillo Foster
Assistant Director, Women's Center

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is on the American Library Association's list of 100 most frequently challenged books: 2000-2009 and the list from 1990–1999. Judy Blume explains, "When Margaret was published in 1970 I gave three copies to my children's elementary school but the books never reached the shelves. The male principal decided on his own that they were inappropriate for elementary school readers because of the discussion of menstruation (never mind how many fifth- and sixth-grade girls already had their periods). Then one night the phone rang and a woman asked if I was the one who had written that book. When I replied that I was, she called me a communist and hung up. I never did figure out if she equated communism with menstruation or religion." (courtesy of Judy Blume's website, http://www.judyblume.com/censorship/places2.php).

play (1:41)

 

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying

by William Faulkner
Read by Anna Ball Hodge
New Friends of the Library President

In 1986, Graves County, Kentucky, the school board banned this book about a poor white family in the midst of crisis from its high school English reading list because of 7 passages which made reference to God or abortion and used curse words such as "bastard," "goddam," and "son of a bitch." None of the board members had actually read the book. (Courtesy of http://www.banned-books.com/)

play (1:33)

 

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson

Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Peterson
Read by Lindsey Pullum
Student

for offensive language, sexual content and Occult/Satanism. (Courtesy http://library.campbellhall.org/secondary%20pages/banned%20books/2003%20...)

play (1:47)

 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Call of the Wild

by Jack London
Read by Michael Stoskopf
Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine

Burned in Nazi bonfires (1933). In Italy and Yugoslavia, Jack London's The Call of the Wild was banned in 1929 for being "too radical." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (3:17)

 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22

by Joseph Heller
Read by Benny Suggs
Associate Vice Chancellor of Alumni Relations

Banned in Strongsville, OH (1972), but the school board's action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District. Challenged at the Dallas, TX Independent School District high school libraries (1974); in Snoqualmie, WA (1979) because of its several references to women as "whores." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (5:37) play (1:07)

 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker
Read by Shayna Powell
Student

Challenged as inappropriate reading for Oakland, CA High School honors class (1984) due to the work's "sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." Rejected for purchase by the Hayward, CA school's trustee (1985) because of "rough language" and "explicit sex scenes." Challenged, along with seventeen other titles in the Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary libraries (2002), by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. The group contends the books "contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture." Challenged in Burke County (2008) schools in Morgantown, NC by parents concerned about the homosexuality, rape, and incest portrayed in the book. (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:06)

 

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Go Tell It On The Mountain

by James Baldwin
Read by Dan Solomon
Dean, PAMS

Challenged as required reading in the Hudson Falls, N.Y. schools (1994) because the book has recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence and degrading treatment of women. Challenged as a ninth-grade summer reading option in Prince William County, Va. (1988) because the book was "rife with profanity and explicit sex." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:54)

 

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind

by Margaret Mitchell
Read by Elliott Avent
Baseball Coach

Banned for its depiction of the behavior of Scarlett O'Hara and the freed slaves in the novel. (Courtesy of http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html)

play (2:08)

 

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

by John Steinbeck
Read by Chancellor Randy Woodson

Several months after the book's publication, a St. Louis, MO library ordered 3 copies to be burned for the vulgar words used by its characters. It was also banned in Kansas City and in Oklahoma. (Courtesy of http://www.banned-books.com/) Burned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, NY Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used. Challenged at the Cummings High School in Burlington, NC (1986) as an optional reading assignment because the "book is full of filth. My son is being raised in a Christian home and this book takes the Lord's name in vain and has all kinds of profanity in it." Challenged at the Moore County school system in Carthage, NC (1986) because the book contains the phase "God damn:" Challenged in the Greenville, SC schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a "vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:05)

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Read by Susan Nutter
Vice Provost and Director of NCSU Libraries

Challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC (1987) because of "language and sexual references in the book." Source: 2010 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle. (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:04)

 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita

by Vladmir Nabokov
Read by Chris Anson
University Distinguished Professor and Director, CWSP

Although it was published in Paris, it was soon (1956) to be banned there for being obscene. An Argentinian court banned the book in 1959 and again in 1962 ruling that the book "reflected moral disintegration and reviled humanity." In 1960, the New Zealand Supreme Court also banned the book. It was later freely published in France, England, and the U.S. (Courtesy of http://www.banned-books.com/). The Marion County commissioners in Florida voted to have the county attorney review the novel that addresses the themes of pedophilia and incest, to determine if it meets the state law's definition of "unsuitable for minors." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:37)

 

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men

by John Steinbeck
Read by Kylee Phillips
Caldwell Fellow

Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN (1989) because "Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude." In addition, "he was very questionable as to his patriotism." Challenged at the Jacksboro, TN High School (1991) because the novel contains "blasphemous" language, excessive cursing, and sexual overtones. Challenged as required reading at the high school in Grandville, MI (2002) because the book "is full of racism, profanity, and foul language." Challenged in the Normal, IL Community High Schools (2003) because the books contains "racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:39)

 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

by Ken Kesey
Read by Jeffery Braden
Dean College of Humanities and Social Sciences

In 1974, five residents of Strongsville, OH, sued the board of education to remove the novel. Labeling it "pornographic," they charged the novel "glorifies criminal activity, has a tendency to corrupt juveniles and contains descriptions of bestiality, bizarre violence, and torture, dismemberment, death, and human elimination." Challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, CA Unified School District (2000) after complaints by parents stated that teachers "can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play

 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut
Read by Damian Maddalena
WKNC

Banned in Levittown, NY (1975), North Jackson, OH (1979), and Lakeland, FL (1982) because of the "book's explicit sexual scenes, violence, and obscene language." Challenged at the Owensboro, KY High School library (1985) because of "foul language, a section depicting a picture of an act of bestiality, a reference to 'Magic Fingers' attached to the protagonist's bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: 'The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:04) play (2:24)

 

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

And Tango Makes Three

by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Read by Matt Woodward
Union Activities Board

Due to the penguin parents being of the same sex, some adults in the United States have objected to children reading the book. Source: (Harris, Paul (2006-11-19). "Flap over a tale of gay penguins." The Observer (London). http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/nov/19/gayrights.usa. Retrieved 2010-9-21. The American Library Association reported that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006, 2007, and 2008. In Charlotte, North Carolina, Peter Gorman, the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, ordered the book removed from school libraries on December 20, 2006. Gorman agreed to let a committee review the decision due to concerns that the policy on banning books was not followed. Source: "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools". The Boston Globe (Mcclatchy Newspapers). 2006-12-20. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/12/20/schools_chief_bans.... Retrieved 2006-12-21.

play (4:29)

 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston
Read by Toni Harris Thorpe
Program coordinator, African American Cultural Center

The book was unsuccessfully "challenged for sexual explicitness" at Stonewall Jackson High School in Virginia, where a parent requested it be removed from the academically advanced reading list. (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:52) play (1:49) play (2:21)

 

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

Tiger Eyes

by Judy Blume
Read by Skye Sullivan
Student

Banned for themes of violence, alcoholism, suicide. (Courtesy of the American Library Association).

Judy Blume even changed part of Tiger Eyes to avoid potential objections. She says, "My worst moment came when I was working with my editor on the manuscript of Tiger Eyes (the story of a fifteen-year-old girl, Davey, whose beloved father dies suddenly and violently). When we came to the scene in which Davey allows herself to feel again after months of numbness following her father's death, I saw that a few lines alluding to masturbation had been circled. My editor put down his pencil and faced me. "We want this book to reach as many readers as possible, don't we?" he asked. I felt my face grow hot, my stomach clench. This was the same editor who had worked with me on Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Then Again, Maybe I Won't; Deenie; Blubber; Forever -- always encouraging, always supportive. The scene was psychologically sound, he assured me, and delicately handled. But it also spelled trouble. I got the message. If you leave in those lines, the censors will come after this book. Librarians and teachers won't buy it. Book clubs won't take it. Everyone is too scared. The political climate has changed. I tried to make a case for why that brief moment in Davey's life was important. He asked me how important? Important enough to keep the book from reaching its audience? I willed myself not to give in to the tears of frustration and disappointment I felt coming. I thought about the ways a writer brings a character to life on the page, the same way an artist brings a face to life on canvas -- through a series of brush strokes, each detail adding to the others, until we see the essence of the person. I floundered, uncertain. Ultimately, not strong enough or brave enough to defy the editor I trusted and respected, I caved in and took out those lines. I still remember how alone I felt at that moment. (Courtesy Judy Blume's website: http://www.judyblume.com/censorship/places3.php)

play (1:19)

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee
Read by Sory Bowers
Friends of the Library

Challenged in Eden Valley, MN (1977) and temporarily banned due to words "damn" and "whore lady" used in the novel. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel." Challenged at the Warren, IN Township schools (1981) because the book does "psychological damage to the positive integration process" and "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature." Challenged at the Park Hill, MO Junior High School (1985) because the novel "contains profanity and racial slurs." Challenged at the Brentwood, TN Middle School (2006) because the book contains "profanity" and "contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest." The complainants also contend that the book's use of racial slurs promotes "racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy." (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (1:38) play (1:52)

 

Uncle Bobby's Wedding by Sarah Brannen

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

by Sarah S. Brannen
Read by Thomas Skolnicki
University Landscape Architect

Claimed to exhibit homosexuality and was unsuited to age group, Uncle Bobby's Wedding was among the top 10 most challenged books of 2008. (Courtesy of the American Library Association)

play (2:01)