It’s still March, so it is still International Women’s Month. This time, we’ll be focusing on the books that have been taken off bookshelves in bookstores, and off of library shelves for multiple reasons. Books are challenged for any number of reasons, including content that is too violent or sexually explicit; language that is offensive; or subjects that are deemed unsuitable for certain age groups, such as racism.
But first of all, what is a “banned book”?
A banned book is “one that has been removed from the shelves of a library, bookstore, or classroom because of its controversial content. In some cases, banned books of the past have been burned and/or refused publication. Possession of banned books has at times been regarded as an act of treason or heresy, which was punishable by death, torture, prison time, or other acts of retribution”.
PEN America counted school book bans in the 2021-2022 school year and found an alarming 1,648 titles banned somewhere in the United States
I have compiled a short list of some of the books that have been targeted for censorship in recent years that are written by female authors.
The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
But, if The Handmaid’s Tale – and its author – teach us anything, it’s that resistance is power. And as book banning and gag orders have become so numerous in Republican-led school districts in the US, extreme measures have been taken by Penguin Random House: the creation of a flame-proof copy of the novel. Pretty cool.
Why Was It Banned?
Texas schools state that the book has been banned for several reasons, including profanity, overly sexual tones, being anti-Christian, featuring LGBTQ+ protagonists, and being overall morally corrupt.
It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now … everything has changed.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou
Why Was It Banned?
According to Marshall Libraries , this book was banned for language and being too explicit in the book’s portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse. From as early as 2001, it was banned for sexual exploration by teenagers, rape and homosexuality. It was also challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools for “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture”.
Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiography are a testament to the talents and resilience of this extraordinary writer. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a black woman she has known discrimination and extreme poverty, but also hope and joy, achievement and celebration. In this first volume of her autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evoker her childhood with her grandmother in the American South of the 1930s. She learns the power of the white folks at the other end of town and suffers the terrible trauma of rape by her mother’s lover.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Why Was It Banned?
This book was challenged for profanity and violence and was accused of promoting an anti-police agenda.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt (Introduction)
This book is more than just a story about a girl during the Nazi’s occupation of Holland, but it’s also about love, heartbreak, and having the strength to continue on going despite the circumstances against you.
Why Was It Banned?
According to Marshall Libraries, it was challenged at the Culpeper County (VA) public school by a parent requesting that her daughter not be required to read the book aloud. Initially, it was reported that officials have decided to stop assigning a version of Anne Frank’s diary, one of the most enduring symbols of the atrocities of the Nazi regime, due to the complaint that the book includes sexual material and homosexual themes. The director of instruction announced the edition, published on the 50th anniversary of Frank’s death in a concentration camp, will not be used in the future despite the fact the school system did not follow its own policy for handling complaints. The remarks set off a hailstorm of criticisms online and brought international attention to the 7,600-student school system in rural Virginia. The superintendent said, however, that the book will remain part of the English classes, although it may be taught at a different grade level.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
In 1942, with the Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, the Franks and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annexe” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and surprisingly humorous, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
Out of Darkness
by Ashley Hope Pérez
Why Was It Banned?
After many years on bookshelves, in 2021 this frank portrayal earned the book a spot on the American Library Association (ALA) Banned Book List for “depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
A dangerous forbidden romance rocks a Texan oil town in 1937, when segregation was a matter of life and death.
A Top Ten Most Challenged Book of the Year
This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear? New London, TX. 1937. Naomi Vargas is Mexican American. Wash Fuller is Black. These teens know the town’s divisive racism better than anyone. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Naomi and Wash dare to defy the rules, and the New London school explosion serves as a ticking time bomb in the background. Can their love survive both prejudice and tragedy?
Race, romance, and family converge in this riveting novel that transplants Romeo and Juliet to a bitterly segregated Texas town. Includes a fascinating author’s note detailing the process of research and writing about voices that have largely been excluded from historical accounts.
A Printz Honor Book
A Booklist 50 Best YA Books of All Time Selection
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book
Winner of the Tom�s Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award
References and Further Reading:
Banned Books Week 2022: Read Fearlessly
THE 10 MOST BANNED BOOKS OF THE 2021-2022 SCHOOL YEAR
Banned Books Week – our reading suggestions
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