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UB Libraries celebrate Banned Books Week

Readers can check out any of these banned books as part of the UB Libraries' celebration of Banned Books Week.  

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published September 24, 2015

“Even if a challenge or a ban is well-intended, censorship ultimately denies us the ability to think for ourselves.”
Laura Taddeo, head of arts, humanities and social sciences
UB Libraries

What do “The Great Gatsby,” “Where’s Waldo” and “Green Eggs and Ham” have in common? At one point in history, each of these popular books was either banned or challenged.

The list doesn’t end there. Numerous books, from the “great American novels” to well-known children’s stories, have made the literary blacklist, most often for being sexually explicit or contacting offensive language.

More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association. In fact, more than 300 books were challenged in 2014, including Dr. Seuss’ “Hop on Pop” for allegedly promoting violence against fathers.

To celebrate Banned Books Week — an annual awareness campaign held from Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 that celebrates the freedom to read — the UB Libraries will hold its first Read-Out, where students, faculty and staff are invited to share short passages from a banned book of their choice.

The free event will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 in the second floor lobby of Lockwood Library, North Campus. Refreshments will be served.

“The beginning of the semester is the perfect time to remind students not to take their freedom for granted and to embrace their First Amendment rights,” says Laura Taddeo, head of arts, humanities and social sciences in the UB Libraries.

“Even if a challenge or a ban is well-intended, censorship ultimately denies us the ability to think for ourselves.”

The Libraries also will exhibit, through Oct. 31, a selection of banned books in the lobby of Lockwood Library that will feature some recognizable classic and contemporary novels that cover a range of topics, including race, class, gender and religion. All books on display can be checked out for reading.

The display includes several popular titles, among them “Moby Dick,” “Ulysses,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “50 Shades of Grey,” as well as novels from the “Harry Potter,” “Hunger Games” and “Gossip Girl” series.

So far, reaction to the exhibit has been overwhelming positive, says Taddeo, adding that the Libraries had to restock the exhibit after two weeks because all the books were checked out.

“Often when you tell someone a book is banned for strong language or sexual content, their eagerness to read the book increases,” she says. “This is better advertising than labeling a book as one of the best novels of the 20th century.”

Ten novels that you won't believe were banned

  • “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. The People’s Republic of China banned this classic in 1965 for its portrayal of early Marxism. The ban was not lifted until author Theodor Seuss Geisl’s death in 1991. Other popular Dr. Seuss titles were also banned, including “Yertle the Tertle,” “The Lorax” and “The Sneetches,” for their underlying political messages.
  • “Tarzan” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan was “living in sin” with Jane.
  • “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. In a real head-scratcher, a Texas school district in 1996 banned the story of Ahab from its advanced English class lists because it “conflicted with community values.”
  • “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. In 2006, some parents in a Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural; passages about the spider dying also were criticized as being “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.”
  • “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London. Banned in Italy (1929) and Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1933) because it was too radical. Challenged in the U.S. for its dark tone and violence.
  • “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. Encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Challenged by the Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1987 because of “language and sexual references in the book.”
  • “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter. During an examination of school learning materials in the 1980s, the London County Council banned the use of “Peter Rabbit” and Potter’s other children’s classic “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny,” from all London schools. The reason: The stories portrayed only “middle class rabbits.
  • ”Where’s Waldo" by Martin Handford;. Instead of finding Waldo, a few readers discovered a topless woman on a beach.
  • “Twelfth Night” by Shakespeare. The classic play about a girl who washes ashore after a shipwreck and disguises herself as a boy was banned in a New Hampshire school system via a rule titled “prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction,” which means that teachers in the district are forbidden from discussing homosexuality in the classroom. The plotline in which Viola, dressed as a boy, falls in love with Duke Orsino was deemed inappropriate.