Censorship Toolkit: Page 3
CHOOSE A SECTION:
TIPS FOR RESPONDING TO CHALLENGES
SIMPLE SAMPLE LETTER TO SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION
(PRINCIPAL, SUPERINTENDENT, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS)
TYPES OF OBJECTIONS AGAINST BOOKS
MODEL COMPLAINT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
3. TYPES OF OBJECTIONS AGAINST BOOKS
- Profanity. Books are often challenged for the language they contain, even though profanity is often used in literature to convey social or historical context, local dialect or simply to better depict reactions to real-life situations. Books such as Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut have been challenged or banned due to objections to profanity.
- See a sample letter protesting removal of a book due to profanity
- Sex. Books as varied as Judy Blume’s Forever, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, among many others, have been challenged by parents and school boards who deem certain sexual passages inappropriate for young people. Works like It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman, among others, are challenged for their frank discussion of gay/lesbian issues.
- See a sample letter protesting censorship of Toni Morrison’s Beloved in a high school AP English course.
- Violence. Objections to violent content are often based on the idea that these works trivialize violence or desensitize readers to its effects. Books challenged on these grounds include One Fat Summer by Robert Lypsyte and Native Son by Richard Wright.
- Read NCAC’s letter protesting removal of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
- Religion. Religious grounds have long been cited as reasons for censoring books. Reading translations of the Bible was once forbidden. Today, parents and ministers often object to works which discuss topics such as sex, evolution, or witchcraft or occult themes.
- See a sample letter protesting book censorship on religious grounds.
- Racism. Books containing racial violence, offensive epithets or historical truths about injustice regularly come under fire. Racial sensitivity and trauma are often cited in challenges to classic literary works like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Such works may make some people uncomfortable—particularly those who identify with racial groups that have been subjected to unjust treatment. But we can draw vital lessons about civil and human rights from texts that examine the historical realities of racism.
- See a sample letter protesting censorship of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird on the basis of racism and the use of racist language.
- LGBT themes. In recent years, the most frequently challenged books deal with LGBT themes or characters.
- See a sample letter protesting censorship of books that deal with LGBT issues.