Sunday, 22 September 2013

Banned Books Week!

September 22nd-28th, 2013 is Banned Books Week, so celebrate freadom by reading a book that was once judged too naughty to be read! If you're not sure if one such book is sitting on your shelf then here are just three examples from a very, very long list:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Journey with Alice down the rabbit hole into a world of wonder where oddities, logic and wordplay rule supreme. Encounter characters like the grinning Cheshire Cat who can vanish into thin air, the cryptic Mad Hatter who speaks in riddles and the harrowing Queen of Hearts obsessed with the phrase "Off with their heads!" This is a land where rules have no boundaries, eating mushrooms will make you grow or shrink, croquet is played with flamingos and hedgehogs, and exorbitant trials are held for the theft of tarts. Amidst these absurdities, Alice will have to find her own way home. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland began as a story told to three little girls in a rowboat, near Oxford. Ten year old Alice Liddell asked to have the story written down and two years later it was published with immediate success. Carroll's unique play on logic has undoubtedly led to its lasting appeal to adults, while remaining one of the most beloved children's tales of all time.

In 1900 Lewis Carroll's classic tale was removed from the syllabus in Havervill, New Hampshire at the Woodsville High School due to the belief that the story contains references to masturbation, sexual fantasies, expletives and derogatory characterizations of religious ceremonies. It was also banned by the Chinese Governor of Hunan Province in 1931 on the grounds that: "Animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level."

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Patrick Bateman moves among the young and trendy in 1980s Manhattan. Young, handsome, and well educated, Bateman earns his fortune on Wall Street by day while spending his nights in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Expressing his true self through torture and murder, Bateman prefigures an apocalyptic horror that no society could bear to confront.

Ellis's shocking novel was originally due to be published in March 1991 by Simon & Schuster, but the company withdrew due to "aesthetic differences". When it was published Ellis received numerous death threats and hate mail, which is ironic given that the reason it was banned in several countries and states was because of its graphic violence and sexual content. In Germany the book has been deemed "harmful to minors", while in Australia it is sold shrink-wrapped and classed "R18" under national censorship legislation. Sale of the book is still theoretically banned altogether in Queensland. In Canada, during the trial of serial killer Paul Bernardo, the book generated renewed controversy when Bernardo revealed that he owned a copy which he read "as his bible". Ellis's own views on censorship can be found here.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?

Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.

Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?

Given that Blood and Chocolate is classed as a YA paranormal romance novel you might have thought it as unlikely to see this book on the list as to see Twilight or Vampire Academy, but Blood and Chocolate was in fact challenged in Greensville, South Carolina and La Porte, Texas, where it was also banned from libraries (again ironic given that Klause is a librarian herself), due to it tackling the somewhat touchy subject of teenage sex. Given that the book is about werewolves, its theory that rough sex is better sex is rather frowned upon by parents. Not so much by the teens.

Music can be censored, television can be censored and film can be censored. That's the beauty of the written word, once you've read it there's no going back. So celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want by picking up a book from this list. Happy reading!

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