Top 100 Banned/Challenged BooksALA has posted a list of the top 100 books that were challenged or banned between 2000 and 2009. The Harry Potter series heads the list, and some very popular works...
ALA has posted a list of the top 100 books that were challenged or banned between 2000 and 2009. The Harry Potter series heads the list, and some very popular works on eNotes are included as well: The Chocolate War, Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird.
Have you tried to teach a work that was challenged at your school? What was the result?
When it comes to books on the list, any that are also considered "classics" have always gone unchallenged in the schools in which I've taught. Harry Potter is one that has come under scrutiny, thought I've never taught it as a novel study. I have my students do 2 or 3 independent book projects throughout a semester, and allow them to read ANYTHING, as long as it is on their reading level. Several parents (and some other teachers) have raised objections to Harry Potter, but my theory is that it is an independent project, which is completely open. If parents want to censor their children, that is fine. I'm not going to.
I actually have had a few parents challenge my teaching of Ender's Game as a novel study. Typically it has been because of the silly words at the beginning, like "fart-eater" and the few four-letter words. In every meeting, I simply invited the parent to walk the hallways of our school for just one day, to see if "fart-eater" was the worst of what their high school student was exposed to on a daily basis. The argument back to me was that "in the hallways it is not condoned by teachers." For one student, I was required to come up with a completely different text that that student studied independently while the class worked on Ender's Game. Ridiculous.
AND, in response to #3: I completely AGREE that sometimes the sheer shock value of "allowing" such taboo subjects in a classroom is exactly what students need to make connections. Students want to be treated like adults. I've found, that when challenged to do so in the right environment, they often rise to it.
Two of the stories we have covered in class over the years that some people would prefer we bury are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
As has been mentioned in previous posts, I always make sure to do two things before we begin. The first is a quiet one-on-one discussion where I approached my black students to let them know that I intend to teach in a way where none of my students feel uncomfortable about the novel we will cover in class. I ask each student to seek me out if at anytime I fail to fulfill this purpose.
My second step is to discuss the background of the novel we will be reading. We talk about the n-word which I ask students to avoid reading aloud, saying or writing in their work. Since I cannot personally presume to know what a person of color experiences based on racial background, I request that we all show sensitivity for others.
I also make sure to stress the ethical center and integrity of Atticus Finch and his sense of personal obligation to provide Tom Robinson with a fair trial.
With "Huck Finn," I stress the strong bond between Huck and Jim, who see no racial divide between them, while surrounded by those who can see nothing else. I make sure they see these two as great friends who have each other's back no matter the odds.
I teach all the banned classics! Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye....all the goodies. The only time I've ever had a challenge was to Night. I had one student, whose family was of German origin, who did not want her reading the book. They did not challenge my right to teach it to the class, or to discuss it among my students; they just didn't want their daughter reading it. I went ahead and assigned another work for her, because my right to teach and the other students' right to learn were not being opposed.
I am very lucky in my school. Our 10th grade literature is fairly set, but it contains works such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Candide. As an AP Lit teacher, I can essentially teach any text I'd like. I mix classics with contemporary pieces, nearly all of which contain language and themes considered by some to be "graphic." Of course, even Shakespeare deals with these issues, and it makes for a fascinating historical/literary connection.
I taught for nne years in public school and never had an issue. I also taught in three private religious schools for a total of 18 years, and I regularly taught books from the banned book list--though not out of sensationalism or defiance. I chose books which I felt would challenge and inspire and reveal human nature at its best and worst; and if they were on the list, well, so be it. Perhaps it was a matter of trust, but I had no complaints in all those years. When we finished a work from the list, we always had a discussion about why the text was challenged and the arguments they would make for and against if asked. The only text I ever got questioned about was mythology-related, the fear being that reading about other gods might encourage disbelief or sacrilege of some kind. It wasn't a long-lived concern, and students understood there was little to emulate or admire about the Greek gods. Some battles are worth fighting, and I would have fought. But I didn't have to, thankfully.
Interestingly, although I have taught many of the works listed on the ALA list, in the Deep South, I have never had a work challenged. What I have seen, however, are challenges to the teaching of the theory of evolution in high school biology class, at a Georgia school where I taught in the 1980s. I have also seen students protest using frogs for dissection in biology class, in Massachusetts.
The last time I taught The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I had one black student in a classroom full of white kids. He was president of the senior class. I talked very frankly with the entire class before we started studying the novel, and I made sure that they understood that Twain was satirizing the racist attitudes of the time. Armand, my black student, led several compelling class discussions.
I stil look back at my senior year in high school as one of the greatest experiences of my student and teaching career. My English Honors teacher chose Joseph Heller's Catch-22 for our second semester novel, and it was a wonderful time: Reading a great novel--full of sexual scenes and the "f" word--with no complaints from parents or the administration. None of the principals for whom I have taught would have found this fantastic novel acceptable. The multiple use of the "N" word in Huck Finn would also have prevented me from teaching it. I applaud teachers who undertake such novels in the classroom, but they should realize that there are many conservative principals out there (especially in the Deep South) who are too close-minded to allow these works to be taught in THEIR schools.
I teach at a Catholic High School. Usually pretty liberal, it was surprising to me that my principal as opposed to "The Color Purple" for a summer reading book for seniors. The language in this modern classic is harsh but, as in the case with so many other banned books, necessary for the realistic portrayal of characters. It is sad that the higher interest books for students also contain harsh language and mature themes and are therefore discriminated against by those who interpret them with ignorance. Students enjoy many books that have been challenged because the characters are realistic and approachable. Teenagers do not like "phonies" (to quote Holden Caulfield). Teenagers like a intellectual challenge in their reading and respond to realistic language.
I teach college, so I can't speak to teaching these works in high school, but I recently re-read Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel in which he quite keenly observes that many canonical works of American fiction are shelved in the children's section in libraries outside of the United States. This is true. In many European countries Huck Finn is read by fifth and sixth graders. I remember reading it when I was ten or eleven (I grew up in Europe). Since I have taught foreign literatures, I have had moments in class where some of my freshmen students looked uncozy with texts that contained explicit sex scenes( and I teach in a very liberal school). I always tell them "it's fiction, isn't it?".
I have found that the notoriety of a text making the ALA banned list has been of great assistance when introducing a new text in the UK. New texts were received with relish each time the request 'was it banned in America, Miss?' was greeted with a positive. Discussions around the historical and cultural context of texts such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men became valuable elements of discussion (although I found it hard to reconcile the free speech idea).
I will research for myself but, incidentally, what's wrong with Harry Potter? Has JK Rowling really highlighted some issue that Grimm's fairy tales have not?
I have been reprimanded several times for the use of some books. Even with extensive background discussions on the Uncle Remus tale "The Tar Baby", I was challenged by a prominent local lawyer and his wife. The story and the video were removed from the media center, and we were told not to teach it. The worst effect on me was that several black colleagues condemned me for it. In Sounder, there was one word, "The bastards" at the end of the movie that got me into hot water. We discussed why a character might use profanity when he had not used it before in the movie. Still, I was called on the carpet.
At my school, the English teachers use many of the books on the list in classes. Our school has never banned a book per se; however, over the last few years, many parents have complained about our teaching The Color Purple. Parents argue that graphic sexual and violent scenes are not appropriate for students to read. Our department head always fields these calls and supports the novel's literary merit. He also reminds parents that the novel was approved by the Board of Education (which is largely made up of local parents) and this seems to put out the fire.
Yes, I have had to go to the school board and defend two books, both in a Latino Literature setting - Bless Me, Ultima and The Death of Artemio Cruz. I also had to meet with the administration to come up with a written response to a parent challenge about Fools Crow in my history class because of the sexual content. I was able to continue in all three counts, as most of the concern was based on parent misunderstanding of either the book (which they usually hadn't read) or the way in which it was taught.
Well, I am going to be facing an issue when I teach The Picture of Dorian Gray in my Conservative Christian school. The teacher before me taught that though, so at least I am not trailblazing on my own. He did not let students take the text outside of the classroom because of the "interesting" biographical details about Oscar Wilde contained in the introduction. I am going to let them take it out of the classroom, so I will let you know how it goes and if I have a job anymore afterwards!
The only challenge I have faced personally was to Richard Wright's Native Son. The parent is question objected to the idea that a murderer could be a "hero." I simply asked if she had the book in its entirety. She answered no and I explained that I would be more than happy to discuss the merits and overall message of the work with her just as soon as she finished reading the book. She did read it and then apologized for her previous comments. End of story.
I always taught Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as others on the ALA list, with no complaints. They were standards in my high school's English curriculum thirty years ago and still are. The town is a very conservative Midwestern community, but very rarely has a book been challenged. The only book I can recall being withdrawn from the curriculum, years ago, was Catcher in the Rye.
No, I have not had a book challenged; however, I did see many teachers choosing to avoid controversial books, movies, or even discussion topics in order to avoid heat from parents. I wonder if current books like The Hunger Games series will become a problem in school classrooms or libraries because of parents' concerns.
I've taught some of these banned books, including Huck Finn and Harry Potter. Those were not challenged. The only books I have had challenged are A Christmas Carol, Warriors Don't Cry and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The first was for religious reasons, the second for content and the third for racial reasons.
Our district has been fortunate that we have not had to ban or pull books out of the library. The biggest issues we have had have been surrounding the witchcraft in the Harry Potter books. We also had some parents express concerns about the Twilight series.
Death Note is the only one that I know.. Here is the source story..
China’s capital is seizing ghost and horror books from shops to protect the “physical and mental health” of its youngsters, local media said on Tuesday.
Authorities have been scouring bookstores, newsstands and shops near schools, known for their orthodox and conformist teaching but where youth subcultures have flourished with an increasingly diverse society, the Beijing News said.
“The illegal publications are quite popular among students and are apt to harm the physical and mental health of young people,” the newspaper quoted a government circular as saying.
My favourite book to teach that is on this list is Catcher in the Rye. I've used it many times before and I have never had a student or parent challenge it. Perhaps my school is in a more open-minded area, but by today's standards, the fears this book might have created in the past seem somewhat pale in comparison. Only once in the past 10 years did a teacher in our school have an issue with one student. Her solution: she literally blacked out all the bad words instead of giving a different novel to read. Was it the right thing to do? I'm not sure, but most of the time, it is a pleasure to teach this book and if you haven't used it before, I highly recommend it. It is as important today as it was 60 years ago when it was published.
I have been teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with great success. It is a staple in our school and is one of the few books that has so much inside of it, it is frequently cited by the College Board as being one of the most frequently used texts in an AP class.