UB banned books exhibit shares works from literary blacklist

Banned books exhibit.

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

Release Date: September 25, 2015 This content is archived.

“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 in the UB Libraries

BUFFALO, N.Y. – 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 were 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 containing 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’s Hop on Pop, for allegedly promoting violence against fathers.

To celebrate Banned Books Week – an annual awareness campaign held this year from Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 that celebrates the freedom to read – the University at Buffalo Libraries will hold their 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 on Monday, Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. in the second floor lobby of Lockwood Library. 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.”

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

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

So far, reactions to the exhibit have been overwhelmingly positive, says Taddeo, who adds that the Libraries had to restock the exhibit after two weeks because most of 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,” says Taddeo. “This spurs more interest than labeling a book as one of the best novels of the twentieth century.”

Taddeo and other UB librarians have also compiled a list of 10 books that most readers may be surprised to learn were banned or challenged.

  1. “Green Eggs & 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.
  2. “Tarzan” by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Tarzan “living in sin” with Jane was met with disapproval.
  3. “Where’s Waldo” by Martin Handford: Instead of finding Waldo, a few readers discovered a topless woman on a beach.
  4. “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville: In 1996, a Texas school district banned the story of Ahab and Ishmael because it “conflicted with community values.”
  5. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White: In 2006, parents in a Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural. Charlotte’s death was also considered inappropriate subject matter.”
  6. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London: Banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929, it was later burned in Nazi bonfires for being too radical. Even the U.S. challenged the book for its dark tone and violence.
  7. “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein: Believed to encourage children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.
  8. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Challenged by the Baptist College in 1987 due to the “language and sexual references in the book.”
  9. “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter: Banned by the London County Council in the 1980s for portraying only “middle class rabbits.”
  10. “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare: A New Hampshire school system banned the play due to a rule forbidding teachers to discuss homosexuality in the classroom. The story of Viola, who dresses as a boy, and falls in love with Duke Orsino was deemed inappropriate.

For more information on banned and challenged books, visit www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks.

Media Contact Information

Marcene Robinson is a former staff writer in University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, email ub-news@buffalo.edu or visit our list of current university media contacts.