Howdy Howdy Howdy, Bookworms!
It’s Banned Books Week still and I thought it might be fun to look at some weird-ass reasons books have been challenged and/or banned. The most common complaints about books are the holy trinity: sex, drugs, and naughty language. Those are the ones you expect to see, you know? Luckily for our reading enjoyment, there are some more entertaining problems that have caused folks to get their knickers in a twist over books. Check these out.
1. Talking Animals are an Insult to God- Winnie-the-Pooh and Charlotte’s Web have both been challenged because they feature talking animals. Apparently in certain religious circles, talking animals are an insult to God. Sounds like those folks would have done well in Gregory Maguire’s re-imagining of Oz…
2. Depicted Women in Strong Leadership Roles- Speaking of Oz, apparently The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was banned in 1928 in all Chicago Public Libraries because Dorothy and the witches were ladies with power. True, Dorothy and Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West were the key players and the Wizard was a charlatan. True all Dorothy’s male travel companions were lacking a certain something. I still fail to see this as a problem. Then again, I’m a big old feminist and would likely land on the naughty list of the folks who hated this book myself…
3. Because it Defined Oral Sex- Okay, I know that a book being sexual explicit makes easy pickings for challenging books, but in 2010, some schools in California banned the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary because it included a definition for oral sex. You know how I learned what oral sex was? My 6th grade science teacher told us on the bus to the annual health center field trip that oral sex wasn’t just “talking about it” it was “mouth on genitals.” That resulted in a resounding “ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” from a bus full of 12 year olds.
4. Middle Class Rabbits- It seems Beatrix Potter has been challenged in some schools in the UK because only “middle class” rabbits are depicted. My sources failed to mention if the challengers wanted more rich rabbits or more poverty stricken rabbits, but the middle class just wasn’t representative enough of rabbit society. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
5. Witchcraft- Because Satan. I’m always frustrated by wanting to be tolerant of religious beliefs and wanting to shake people who think Harry Potter could possibly be a bad influence. It’s not just HP, of course. Pretty much anything that deals with magic, spells, potions, witches, wizards, fairies, mythological creatures (and likely fun in general) is seen as problematic by some.
6. It used “ass” or “bitch” in the appropriate context. Ah yes. Bad language. Books are forever being challenged for the use of dirty words. But I’m not talking about f-bombs here. I’m talking about using the word “ass” to refer to a donkey and “bitch” to refer to a female dog. That IS what they mean, after all. It’s not “ass” and “bitch”s fault that people started flinging them about in a rude manner.
7. Anne Frank is a Debbie Downer- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has been challenged for a number of reasons ranging from perceived homosexual undertones (what the what?!) to the idea that the Holocaust is too mature a theme for certain age groups. The one I find most amusing (and troubling) is that Anne Frank is just too depressing. Well, yeah. It is depressing. The Holocaust was an atrocity of unspeakable proportions, but it happened, and astonishingly recently. You can’t just dismiss a book because reality sucks. I actually think this book is one of the best introductions to the Holocaust there could be as it deals with the family in hiding rather than the nightmare inducing subject matter of a concentration camp memoir.
8. It Teaches Children to Spy- Harriet the Spy apparently encourages children to spy, lie, and be general malcontents, according to some opponents. Funny, after reading this book as a kid I recall learning that spying wasn’t a great idea and that you shouldn’t talk smack about your friends in a secret notebook (a lesson kids today could learn in regards to Facebook!)
9. Promotion of Cannibalism- The perrenial favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein supposedly promotes cannibalism in children. Unsurprising given that some of Silverstein’s other works have been so insidious as to “encourage children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” (Please tell me someone else thought of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead: “The dishes are done, man!” I can’t be alone here!)
10. Little Red Riding Hood is an Alcoholic- Some have voiced concern that the timeless fairy tale depicts LRR putting a bottle of wine into her basket of goodies for Granny. Never mind the fact that Lil’ Red didn’t drink it. And never mind the fact that if she HAD drunk it, the tale originated in a time when potable drinking water could easily have given you dysentery or cholera and you were better off with a little alcohol. Never mind that a Big Bad Wolf is eating people. NEVER MIND. BOOZE IS BAD.
Talk to me Bookworms. Anybody out there heard of any strange reasons for books being banned and challenged? Which of the weirdo reasons is your personal fave?
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