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Celebrate Banned Books

Banned Books Week (September 27 – October 3, 2020) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. (ALA)

How did Banned Book Week Start?

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Drawing on the success of the exhibit, ABA invited OIF Director Judith Krug to join a new initiative called Banned Books Week, along with the National Association of College Stores. The three organizations scrambled to put something together by the September show date and ended up distributing a news release and a publicity kit, hoping that with their combined membership of 50,000 people, they could continue to spark a conversation about banned books.

The initiative took off. Institutions and stores hosted read-outs, and window displays morphed into literary graveyards or mysterious collections of brown-bagged books. Major news outlets such as PBS and the New York Times covered the event, and mayors and governors issued proclamations affirming the week. (

Here is a small sample of some of the top Novels of the 20th Century that have been challenged, removed, banned, or burned.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Reason: “Coarse language, racial stereotypes and use of racial slurs.”

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Reason: “profanity, offensive and obscene passages referring to abortion, and used God’s name in vain.”

 Beloved by Toni Morrison

Reason: “depicted the inappropriate topics of sex, bestiality, and racism.”

Black Boy by Richard Wright

Reason: “themes of Communism, racism and atheism.”

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Reason: “obscenity and vulgarity, racism, and anti-religion, anti-family, and blasphemous content.”

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Reason: “Themes of homosexuality, alcoholism, infidelity.”

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Reason: “”anti-white, profanity, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and dealings with the occult.”

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Reason: “Reasons: profanity, descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture, and negative images of black men.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Reason: “Obscene language, references to smoking and drinking, violence, and religious themes.”

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Reason: “violence, sexually explicit material, infanticide, euthanasia, occult related themes, and usage of mind control, selective breeding, and the eradication of the old and young when they are weak, feeble and of no more use.”

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Reason; “recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence, and degrading treatment of women.”

The Grapes of Wrath  by John Steinbeck

Reason: “book uses the name of God and Jesus in a “vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references.”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reason: “reference to drugs, sexuality, and profanity”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Reasons “homosexuality, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group”

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Reason: “Violence, sexual content, and obscene language.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Reason: “profanity and images of violence and sexuality.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reason:  profanity, contains adult themes such as sexual intercourse, rape, and incest, use of racial slurs promotes racial hatred, racial division, racial separation, and promotes white supremacy.”

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Reason: “profanity, sexuality, racial slurs, and excessive violence.”

Native Son by Richard Wright

Reason: “profanity, violence, explicit sexual content.”

1984 by George Orwell

Reason “Reason: pro-communism ideas, explicit sexual matter.”

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reason: “blasphemous, offensive language, racism, violence, and sexual overtones.”

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Reason: “offensive and obscene passages referring to abortion and used God’s name in vain.”

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Reason: “depictions of torture, ethnic slurs, and negative portrayals of women.”

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Reason: “profanity and sexual explicitness.”

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Reason: “Misogyny, encouraging disobedience, violence, animal cruelty, obscene language, and supernatural themes.”

For a more in-depth list visit: LibraryThing Book Awards : Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 of the 20th Century

Did any of the books on this list surprise you?

Just for fun, here are a few banned book themed word searches!

Banned Books Week 2019


Each year, ALA (American Library Association) celebrates “Banned Books Week”.  This year Banned Books Week is September 22 – 28, though, here in Gardiner, our display is up for the entire month of September.

What is Banned Books Week, you ask?

“Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. “

Above is taken directly from the ALA website.  For those interested in the history of when Banned Books week began, the following link will take you directly to the website.

The ALA website has several lists of Banned & Challenged books.  Looking at the list of “Classics”, I see several, many, perhaps even the majority of titles I was required to read in school, as well as books I have read since then.

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck and The Catcher In The Rye by J D Salinger have each been banned or challenged over twenty times.  For what reason(s)? is a great question.

Language – vulgar, offensive, profane, racist, foul, and objectionable are the terms used most often.

Other reasons listed are “the violent ending” (Of Mice And Men), “sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, violence, and anything dealing with the occult” (The Catcher In The Rye), and then, of course the very general “book’s contents”.

As I click my way around the ALA website, there is a page available to see the Top Ten challenges per year.  Over the past ten years, it appears that the majority of challenges are to items geared toward children and teens, though there are several adult titles as well.  The reasons for challenge are similar to those previously mentioned, with the addition of “LGBTQIA+ content”, “stereotypes”, “sexual violence”, “gender identity”, as well as the all-encompassing “unsuited for age group”.

Hmmm . . . .

As a human being, as well as a library employee, I don’t feel that it is my place to tell you or anyone else what they may read, so these lists all just make me shake my head in wonder.

I will say, however, the more someone says “NO” the more I want to do, so let’s all take a chance and read a book that has been Banned or Challenged, just to be different, or difficult!

Banned Books Week 2013!

This year, Banned Books Week is celebrated the week of September 22.  This is a week to embrace items that have been Banned or Challenged over the previous twelve months, as well as previous years. 

Banned Books Week celebrates a freedom – the freedom to read.  Working in a library, I love books!  Yes, I admit it, I LOVE TO READ!  I read just about anything – from cereal boxes to “How to manuals”, from “Scandal sheets” (as my grandfather called them) to what others might consider more legitimate newspapers, from the “Classics” to “Bodice rippers” – I read them all.  As a serious reader, I simply do not understand how anyone feels that they have the right to tell me what I can and should read.


Every year, most libraries have a display of Banned or Challenged books.  You have probably seen some of these as you visit libraries in September each year.  This year we have wrapped our display and hidden the titles.  We have covered the books in paper, and attached a blurb about why the books have been challenged.  Some of the descriptors might give you an idea of what the book is, but most of the reasons are rather general.  
Come on in and pick up a surprising title today!
Ann Russell, Technology Librarian


Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education. —  Alfred Whitney Griswold


Education Month at the Gardiner Public Library!

Education is our theme for September!  Those who are taking part in our “Year of Reading” we hope you read a book, watch a movie, listen to an item, read a magazine, that somehow pertains to education.  As you all know, we are VERY relaxed about the relationship of your item to our theme, so enjoy something today.  Our September sponsor is Gardiner Family Chiropractic, so thank them next time you have an adjustment!

Since “Banned Books Week” runs from September 30 – October 6 this year, we’re offering our readers a “deal” – read or listen to a Banned Book and get an extra chance for the drawing!
We would like to offer a HUGE thank you to our other sponsors!!!
January was sponsored by At Home Veterinary Care, in West Gardiner.
February was sponsored by Book It! the library’s used book store on Water Street here in Gardiner.
March was sponsored by the Community Wellness Center, in Gardiner.
April was sponsored by the Black Crow Bakery, in Litchfield.
May was sponsored by Lisa’s Legit Burritos, in Gardiner
June was sponsored by Kan 2 Kanvas, a local artist, Mario Del Rio, in Gardiner.
July was sponsored by Deb’s Ice Cream & Mini Golf, in Randolph.
August was sponsored by Dennis’ Pizza, in Gardiner.
Please come on in and join the fun!  We would love to have you participate in whatever way works for you.
If you know any Gardiner area business that would like to sponsor a month, give us a call at (207) 582-3312. 
Ann Russell, Technology Librarian