It’s Banned Books Week. The national weeklong event celebrates the freedom to read and open access to information. The week also serves as a reminder that many great works of literature — books like "The Great Gatsby," "1984," "The Bluest Eye" — were once deemed unfit for public consumption and censored.
Who challenges books and why?
In 2014, the most common institutions to challenge books were public libraries, according to the American Library Association, and the most common initiators were parents. Books are often challenged for more than one reason. But in 2014, books were most commonly banned for being sexually explicit, having offensive language or not being appropriate for a particular age group.
Books are still being challenged and banned in schools, libraries and prisons across the country and in Texas. Keep reading to learn which books have been censored through the decades.
Banned books in Texas schools
In the 2015-2016 school year, the Texas ACLU recorded 13 book challenges from 12 school districts across the state. Books were challenged for several reasons including being too scary, too offensive and too insensitive to religion. Five of those books were banned. The ACLU filed open records requests to school districts and got responses from 53 percent of schools contacted.
These five books were banned by schools:
- “Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary” by Walter Dean Myers
- “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
- “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
- “World Geography” by McGraw-Hill (textbook)
- “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs
The Texas ACLU says librarians and school administrators were able to avoid outright bans and instead accommodate complaints from parents. They denied access to the book to the child of the parent who complained or required students to get their parents’ permission before checking out the text.
See all the challenged books recorded by the ACLU, including “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki by McKinney ISD.
Read more about Texas schools banning books at the bottom of the post.
Banned books in Texas prisons
Before it was published this month, “Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel” by Dan Slater was banned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Director’s Review Committee, according to The Guardian.
The nonfiction book tells the story of Gabriel Cardona and Bart Reta, who were once teenagers with bright futures growing up in Laredo. But their lives took a turn when they got involved with the Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel, and one of the boys became an assassin.
More: On “Think with Krys Boyd,” Slater talks about what Cardona and Reta's transformations say about the perilous prospect of growing up on the border.
Both Cardona and Reta are serving decades in the Texas criminal justice system. The Guardian reports: "TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark cites one page, which ‘contains information on how to conceal and smuggle illegal narcotics.’” These two sentences on page 124 were problematic:
“Mario purchased pickup trucks from which he removed panels and lights. The trick was packing the drugs in a part of the vehicle where the body wouldn’t lose its hollow sound when slapped.”
The Texas criminal justice system has banned 15,000 books its correctional facilities. According to The Guardian, the list of books banned in Texas jails includes a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a collection of Leonardo DaVinci’s sketches. Other banned items include:
- “World War II: An Illustrated History of Crisis and Courage” by Bob Dole
- “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope” by Jenna Bush
- “America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction” by Jon Stewart
- “101 Best Family Card Games”
- “The Narrative of Sojourner Truth”
- “Friday Night Lights” by H.G. Bissinger
- “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor
- “Show Me a Hero” by Lisa Belkin
More book bans
Here's a look at other challenged and banned books.
- Most frequently challenged books in 2015 includes "Looking for Alaska," "Fifty Shades of Grey," "The Holy Bible" and more.
- Top 10 most challenged books of the first decade (2000-2009) of the 21st century includes the Harry Potter series, "And Tango Makes Three," "Of Mice and Men" and more.
- Top 10 most frequently challenged books for every year of the 21st century includes "The Bluest Eye," "The Kite Runner," "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and more.
- Banned and challenged classics includes "The Great Gatsby," "The Catcher in the Rye," "1984" and more.
- Most frequently challenged books written by authors of color includes "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," "The House of Spirits," "Song of Solomon" and more.
- Frequently challenged books with diverse content includes "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," "I Am Jazz," "Invisible Man" and more.
Learn more about Banned Books Week.