Every year thousands of readers across the nation celebrate the rebels of literature during Banned Books Week. September 26th–October 2nd marks the week for 2021, and the current list of books can be found here. These writers join the distinguished group of storytellers who have dared to tell the tales that invoke deep thought, invite change, and incite social justice.
Every year the list grows longer and longer as newer writers add their message to the mix. Here at The Spellbinding Shelf, we appreciate these writers’ ability to freely express themselves while challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries. Check out some of our staff’s favorite picks.
Staff Writer Paul Stanton
My favorite banned book is Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. A non-fiction graphic novel about Bechdel’s childhood relationship with her father, Fun Home is one of my favorite memoirs, but it has often been challenged and banned because it deals with the queerness of both Alison Bechdel and her closeted father.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has an excellent legal history of the challenges against the book here. Bechdel is famous for her comic strip Dykes to Watch out For and for coining the “Bechdel-Wallace Test”—a feminist media criticism tool.
Editor-in-Chief Sharon Enck
While some of my favorite banned books are classics such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Fahrenheit 451, I have recently added a new favorite. John Green’s Looking for Alaska is a heartbreaking tale of grief, and the search to find one’s self. It has been banned for being too sexually explicit (a scene describing oral sex) as well as offensive language and drug/alcohol use.
Green, whose talent lies in tackling the complexity of young adult lives, responded to his challengers, “If you have a world view that can be undone with a novel, let me submit that the problem is not with the novel.”
Staff Writer Lauren Kuhman
I think there can be a perception that banned books are a thing of the past but books, articles, and the written word are constantly being censored. One of my favorite books is Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. Published in 2017, the young adult novel follows a 16-year-old Starr Carter as she witnesses the murder of her best friend Kahlil in a police shooting. The novel addresses police brutality and racism and was banned by school officials in Katy, Texas for “pervasive vulgarity and racially-insensitive language…not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed” (as cited in Gomez, 2018). However, the book was eventually reinstated (with the caveat of needing parental permission to check it out) when a local student petitioned for the book’s return.
Managing Editor Jade Stanton
While there are many great classics that have found their way to the banned books list, my personal favorite is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. This well-known novel follows Holden Caulfield on his two day trip home after being expelled from prep school. Throughout his journey, Holden rails against the phoniness of the adult world and the inevitable corruption that comes from being a part of adult society.
This book is often banned and challenged for its adult themes—namely cursing, alcohol abuse, and sex. It strikes me as especially ironic that a book about preserving innocence while becoming aware of the harsh realities of the world is often challenged and considered inappropriate for high schoolers. Despite its adult themes and controversies, The Catcher in the Rye is lauded for its relatability among high school audiences.
Rebellious writers and readers of the world unite on this last day of Banned Books Week!