Writers often find themselves wondering about the reasons for book censorship.
What Are Reasons for Book Censorship?
Books come under attack for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common complaints relating to book censorship include:
- Unsuited to age group
- Offensive language
- Sexually explicit
- Religious viewpoint
- Political viewpoint
- Satanic/occult themes
While censorship of adult titles does occur, it should be noted that most attempts at censorship focus on literature for children and teenagers.
Most Commonly Censored Books
According to the American Library Association, the most commonly censored books from 1990-2000 were:
- Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
- Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
- Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
- A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Sex by Madonna
- Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
- In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Will My Book Be Censored?
Author Judy Blume is no stranger to having her books censored. Forever, Blubber, Deenie, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, and Tiger Eyes all regularly make the list of the top 100 most frequently challenged books. "It's not just the books under fire now that worry me," she said. "It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers." If you are writing a book, it's natural to be concerned about the reasons for book censorship. If your book is very controversial and you are a first time author, you may have trouble finding a suitable publisher. However, it should be noted that scandals surrounding censored books do tend to generate public interest that's hard to get from other sources. Best selling novelists J.K. Rowling and Stephen King both have their books frequently censored, but this obviously hasn't hurt their careers in any significant way.
The best course of action for an aspiring writer is to take a cue from Judy Blume. Write the story you want to tell and don't worry about censorship. If your writing is good and your plot is compelling, you'll find an audience regardless of what the censors think.
Banned Books Week
As a writer concerned about censorship, it's important that you don't forget to mark Banned Books Week on your calendar. Banned Books Week is an event which celebrates the freedom to read and is observed during the last week of September each year. Supporters of Banned Books Week believe that it is important reading materials covering a wide range of viewpoints be available, even if those opinions are considered unpopular or unorthodox.
Banned Books Week began in 1982 and is sponsored by the American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.