Each year, the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week in honor of the freedom to read. It is traditionally held the last week of September and spotlights the many current and historical attempts to censor libraries and schools from carrying books. This year’s theme is “Books United Us. Censorship Divides Us,” and encourages readers to share stories to build connections across boundaries. Here’s a list of frequently banned adult fiction and the reasons why they have been historically banned.
Alice Walker’s masterpiece has been banned frequently since 1984 for graphic sexual content and depictions of violence and abuse. Although there are troubling scenes, this is part of what makes Walker’s story raw and honest. Alice Walker was the first Black female to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel.
George Orwell’s 1984 has been repeatedly banned for decades regarding its social and political themes. In Jackson County, Florida, the book was banned in 1981 for promoting communism. Censors have also cited its sexual content as reason for banning. Fun fact: this is the third most checked out book of all time at New York Public Library!
Morrison’s classic novel, Beloved, was first banned twenty years after its publication for its mention of racism, sex, and bestiality. It has also been banned for what some parents considered inappropriate parts of antebellum slavery. Morrison won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award.
In 1960, a Tulsa, Oklahoma schoolteacher was fired for assigning The Catcher in the Rye. Since 1961, Salinger’s classic has been one of the most frequently challenged and banned book of all time. Challenges usually reference Holden’s vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, moral codes, and more.
In 2008, years after its publication, Khaled Hosseini’s novel made the list of the most-challenged books. Multiple libraries faced demands to remove it, due to the novel’s language, sexually explicit content, and Hosseini’s depiction of Afghan relations.
Celebrate Banned Books Week 2021 and read widely. Enjoy!