Throughout history, manuscripts, essays and books have been challenged or banned for their content. This hasn’t stopped authors from pushing the envelope and writing books on subjects that make some parents and officials uncomfortable.
In honor of banned books week, a celebration of the freedom of reading
under the First Amendment, the Oracle looks at novels that have made a scene and been challenged or banned for their content in the past few years.
And Tango Makes Three
In the children’s book “And Tango Makes Three,” a penguin named Tango is hatched and raised by two male penguins. Based on the true story of New York City’s Central Park Zoo penguins Roy and Silo, the book illustrates what life is like for the family.
“And Tango Makes Three” has topped the American Library Association (ALA) list of 10 most frequently challenged books in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Most detractors believe the book promotes a homosexual agenda to young children, but co-author Justin Richardson said this is not the case.
“We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks,” he said in a 2005 article with the New York Times.
Political views aside, “And Tango Makes Three” is a wonderful book that throws a new twist on the traditional love story.
– Tyler Shepard
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” No. 6 on the ALA’s most frequently challenged books list in 2008, was banned from high schools in Portage, Indiana.
The story chronicles an awkward teenager’s first year of high school and his development into a young adult.
The book was banned and is frequently challenged because of controversial topics such as homosexuality, drug use, sexual behavior and abortion.
However, the book goes to no extremes to present this material in an inappropriate way, as it presents a topic people can discuss and learn from.
– Agustin Guerrero
Kurt Vonnegut unveils the bombing of Dresden in World War II in his book “Slaughterhouse-Five.” The bombing killed about 135,000 people.
Teachers want to ban Vonnegut’s work because of its “unpatriotic nature” and anti-war views. They claim his book wields the wrong idea about what soldiers were ultimately fighting for in Germany.
The First Amendment was put into place to protect people’s ability to express their thoughts and feelings, and Vonnegut clearly expressed his anti-war Semitism through his book. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is considered a classic by many readers. Losing Vonnegut’s literary influence in schools because of his opinions could cause a landslide of banned books.
– Brittney Bagiardi
Vamos a Cuba
Miami-Dade County school libraries banned the book “Vamos a Cuba” in February after a three-year challenge process.
The children’s picture book was first taken off shelves after a parent complained that the book ignored harsh realities of Cuban life under Fidel Castro.
While this may be true, the book is part of a simple travel series describing places, pastimes and childhoods in foreign countries intended for elementary school readers unlikely to understand fully these human rights issues.
The school board could have encouraged a dialogue between their children instead of holding an unnecessary legal battle that cost thousands.
– Jimmy Geurts
Their Eyes Were Watching God
The title “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” written by Zora Neale Hurston, is derived from a quote toward the end of the book. It’s set in the ‘20s and deals with themes of racism, poverty, gender and class.
When it was first published, the novel was controversial because of its sexual content, which Hurston brought to life through Janie, the main character, and her struggle through three marriages and poverty. Janie tries to find her identity and voice in a society where, because of her gender and race, she is brought down to the lowest social class.
According to the ALA, 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.
The book remains on the list, however, and the novel will continue to teach students about the struggles of finding love and living in a lower class.
– Issa Luckett
“Just Listen,” a popular teen novel by Sarah Dessen, was challenged at Armwood High School in Hillsborough County in December 2007 after parents objected to its sexual themes and profanity.
Dessen, who has always shown insight into the minds of teenage girls, touched on subjects like rape, rumors, losing old friends and gaining new ones. The novel is a guiding light for young girls who may be going through the same things.
After receiving requests from parents to remove the book from the library, a review committee of parents, students and teachers was created to look over the complaints and voted unanimously to keep the book in the library.
– Emily Handy