Read a Banned Book

Happy Banned Books Week, RLB readers!

Chances are, you’ve already read more banned books then you realize. Book banning isn’t something we think of as commonplace in Free Speech, USA, but there is a pervasive trend of books being challenged in our country, which can lead to those books being removed (i.e., banned) from certain libraries or schools.

The American Library Association is a great resource for Banned Books Week (including lists of challenged and banned books), as is the Banned Books Week website.

Here at RLB, we’d like to highlight some banned/challenged books that feature great female characters. It’s worth noting that the top three reasons for challenging a book in the US are because it is believed to: be Sexually Explicit, contain Offensive Language, or be Unsuited for Age Group.

Which leads us to the unsurprising discovery that several of the books on this list feature young girls or women who are coming of age, exploring their sexuality, challenging conservative social norms, and generally rousing the rabble.

Whether you choose a book from our list, or the ALA’s list from the above link, this week is a great time to cozy up with some rebellious, illicit, scandalous reading material. Like something from the Captain Underpants series.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
If you were a girl growing up anytime between 1970-1985, this book probably found its way onto your shelves. Featuring a sixth grade girl who talks with her friends about (gasp!) boys and (the horror!) periods, this book is sure to turn your precious angel princess into a pinko lesbian commie in no time. Say it with me now! “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”


Dangerous Feminist Propaganda

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This is Morrison’s first novel, and it tells the story of a year in the life of a young black girl, named Pecola, who develops an inferiority complex due to her eye and skin color in the years following the Great Depression. Because of the controversial nature of the book, which deals with racism, incest, and child molestation, there have been numerous attempts to ban it from schools and libraries. Because you know, those things don’t ever actually happen.
bluest eye

Scandalous Truth-Teller

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Winning awards means your book can never be banned, right? Wrong! No books are safe from the Annals of American Moral Righteousness. The Color Purple won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award for Fiction, and was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name. The book takes place mostly in rural Georgia, and the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s. This wasn’t a pleasant time in our country’s history and no one wants to talk about it so shhhhhhhhhh!

I said, shhhhhhhhh!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
From Wikipedia: Set in the near future, in a totalitarian Christian theocracy which has overthrown the United States government, The Handmaid’s Tale explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain agency…. I think we’ve heard enough on that one, yes?

Oh dear God, just look at this! Imagine all of the satanic witchcraft tattoos piercings and criminal activity our daughters will embrace because of this depraved literature!!


There’s also this cover, which….. I don’t really get it. But I’m sure it’s still evil.

The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
The House of the Spirits is an epic saga that spans four generations, but focuses primarily on the lives of two women, Clara del Valle and Alba de Satigny, and the connection between them. There’s magic realism, magic magic, demonic possession, telekinesis, politics, psychic powers, murder, brothels, revolutionaries, ghosts, steamy love-making (i.e. people have sex and they like it!), Socialism, abortion, rape, drug use, women running businesses, cooperatives, refugees, fingers chopped off, and women writing stories and having thoughts of their own.

Clearly every copy of this book should be burned.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Does anyone else think it’s hilarious when people try to ban Shakespeare? This story has been around for roughly 400 years, but quick! We best ban it so it doesn’t Destroy Humanity! There’s cross-dressing in it.

Gaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh nooooooooooooo!!!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was immediately successful. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. Sounds pretty deviant so far, right?

From (yes, that’s a thing): It’s hard to argue with To Kill a Mockingbird’s message of standing up for what’s right even when the costs are high. But not everyone agrees that the book holds the moral high ground. While the main reason it frequently appears on lists of banned books is its use of profanity, it’s also been challenged for its one-dimensional representation of African-Americans as docile, simple folk who need whites to protect them. Some people see the novel as taking a powerful stand against racism. Others just see it as promoting a kinder, gentler form of racism.

And again, who wants to have challenging, thought-provoking conversations about racism? No one. Personally? I think this book is challenged so often because people keep naming their kids Scout and Atticus. How many more dogs do we need named Boo Radley???

Give it a rest, Scout.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that there are several books on the challenged/banned list that are meant to teach children about the biological realities of their bodies, which will clearly lead to thoughts of sex, which will lead to teenagers having sex, which will lead to the end of civilization as we know it. Teenagers have never had sex before, and I for one don’t want to see what will happen if they ever do.
Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 2.51.45 PMWDICF

All sarcasm aside, I really, really love this book. Teach your kids to read, and never have an awkward sex-ed talk ever again!

Now make us proud, and go read a banned book!


Small point of pride: NM doesn’t have any blue dots on this map!

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