Banned Books in the College Library!


The Christ’s College library is celebrating Banned Books this month in an attempt to introduce boys to the idea of ‘the freedom to read’. It highlights the value of free and open access to information, supports the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular. We have created a display of some of the books in our library that have at some stage been banned or challenged. Several very popular novels would not be on our shelves if the ban had not been lifted, highlighting the harm of censorship. One such novel is Alice in Wonderland!Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 9.46.53 AM

Alice in Wonderland  was in 1900
Suspended from classroom use, pending review, at the Woodsville High School in Haverhill, New Hampshire, because the novel contains expletives, references to masturbation and sexual fantasies, and derogatory characterizations of a teachers and of religious ceremonies.
and in 1931
Banned by the Chinese Governor of Hunan Province on the ground that “Animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”…

Books are not alone. Films, songs, television and radio are censored in order to preserve our morality. In the digital age the internet also needs to be considered. Almost anyone can ‘publish’ writing and include dubious content. And who is censoring social media?

It all raises the question as to the extent that any authority is allowed to prohibit free speech or expression. In New Zealand over 1300 texts have been banned and 738 have been restricted.  “It has to include sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence in some way for us to ban or restrict it,” says  Michelle Baker from the Office of Film and Literature Classification. I have included the article from Stuff for you to peruse.

What troubles me with this is what is being censored. In the Christ’s College library we have at least 50 books which would not be there if the ban had not been challenged and then lifted. Our lives and those of our boys would be less rich for it.

  1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  2. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism
  6. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence
  7. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
  8. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
    Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  10. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
    Reasons: occult/Satanism

And this is just the 10 that surprised me the most!

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To recap…

Banned books have been prohibited from being published or circulated by a government authority, usually on the grounds of religion, politics or public morality. So many of these books have battled the censors and gone onto become classics of world literature – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain for instance.

Great books such as Lolita and Ulysses have been banned in many countries for their sexual themes. Famous authors banned in their own countries for political reasons include; The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

The New Zealand Bill of Rights states:

Freedom of expression
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

Often challenges are motivated by a desire to protect children from “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language and age unsuitability. It certainly is an interesting subject, shocking at times and sad at others. I am not sure what books we would have on the shelves if some of the bans had not been lifted and I am really quite sure that English teachers around the country would have nothing to teach.