Prepare the Child For the Path: Banning Charlotte's Web and Native Son

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Just in time for Banned Books Week, the wise elders of Texas have yanked several terrific award-winning (including two Pulitzers and two Nobels) books from schools because they're icky, aka deal with real-life issues. The offending titles - including Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon,  David Shipler's The Working Poor: Invisible in America, and Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle - were cited for the crimes of containing sexuality, homosexuality, strong language, domestic violence, Buddhist philosophy and anti-capitalistic sentiments, none of which, obviously, exist in the real world, at least the one inhabited by the elders of Texas. The action has sparked an awkward social situation, given that Walls is scheduled to be keynote speaker at the district’s annual literary festival in February. She politely disagreed with the move: “My book has ugly elements to it, but it’s about hope and resilience...Sometimes you have to walk through the muck to get to the message... There are so many complicated situations out there. And we can begin to give kids the tools they need to deal with it, if only to say, ‘You are not alone.'"

Still, this sort of thing is par for the lunatic small-minded course. According to the American Library Association, books that have previously been challenged, banned and sometimes burned include To Kill a Mockingbird ( “filthy, trashy"), Anne Frank's The Diary of A Young Girl (“too depressing” and "sexual content," an intriguing combo), E.B. White's classic Charlotte's Web ("blasphemous...Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God"), George Orwell's Animal Farm (contains the excellent words "the masses will revolt"), Theordore Dreiser's An American Tragedy (depicts "low love affairs"), Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree ("criminalizes the forestry industry"), and Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath (commie, duh). And for the second year in a row, the most challenged book of the year is Captain Underpants, for its potty humor. Don't ask.

Much more on the Banned Books Week website, including events, resources, frequently challenged classics and Top Ten challenged books. And to celebrate the tendency of the masses to revolt, free online texts of 14 banned greats on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels list (Gatsby, Vonnegut, Lawrence, Upton Sinclair!) from Open Culture.

 Here are more. Read some.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
Sophie's Choice, by William Styron
Sons and Lovers, by D.H. Lawrence
Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller
 An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike

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