We continue Banned Books Week, with UC Press staff members sharing their favorite banned books. Held annually since 1982 and sponsored by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association, Banned Books Week is celebrated “in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien
“When my young adult cynicism threatened to engulf all aspects of my outlook on life, the Lord of the Rings fell into my lap like a newly forged ingot of gold. It showed me all of the good and beautiful things to be had in the world, and how they would always be under threat from those who seek to exploit them. Years later and it still fills me with light in dark times—much like the pyre they made to burn this book!” —David Olsen, Publicity & Marketing Assistant
Why it was banned: Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.
The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
“The Catcher in the Rye became my first banned book when the ‘librarian’ at my middle school tried to ban me from reading it. Salinger’s condemnation of hypocrisy and phoneyness suddenly explained the world to a young me. Once in my head, Holden remained my steadfast friend and bulwark. The sheer length of its banned list is a testament to its truth.” —Cris Cooke, Sales Manager
Why it was challenged: Among a long lists of bans: Challenged at the Libby, MT High School (1983) due to the “book’s contents.”
By George Orwell
“When I first discovered the dog-eared copy of 1984 on my mom’s chockablock bookshelf at age 12, I was initially intrigued by the mysterious title, which seemed connected to the David Bowie song of the same name, familiar from my (lower-case) big brother’s prized copy of the Diamond Dogs album. Sure enough, I learned that Bowie took inspiration from Orwell’s terrifying, all-too-prescient dystopia for his deliriously funky glam-soul knockout. The novel had a similarly powerful effect on me as a bewildered seventh grader, desperate to escape the conformist corridors of junior high school. In his devastating narrative of Winston Smith’s failed revolution of the heart—ultimately not strong enough to overcome Big Brother’s absolute authoritarianism—Orwell articulated an eerily relatable fascist ideology of institutional control. I couldn’t remain silent. “This book speaks the truth,” I shouted in the middle of Ms. Gray’s music appreciation class, standing up and holding my paperback aloft. As Orwell himself no doubt would have predicted, I was sent to the principal’s office (Room 101, I kid you not) as punishment for this spontaneous outburst, but I refused to apologize. As Orwell—and Bowie—taught me, sometimes you have no choice but to break the rules.” —Steve Jenkins, Development Director, University of California Press Foundation
Why it was banned: George Orwell’s 1984 has repeatedly been banned and challenged in the past for its social and political themes, as well as for sexual content. Additionally, in 1981, the book was challenged in Jackson County, Florida, for being pro-communism.
His Dark Materials
By Philip Pullman
“I first read Pullman’s His Dark Materials as a kid and was completely captivated by the world, the characters’ relationships with their daemons, and the central horror around the Oblation board. When I reread it as a young adult, it was like a new book – beyond the epic fantasy plot were deeply challenging, dark, and beautiful wrestlings with philosophy, religion, sexuality and love. It’s always one of the first fantasy books I recommend.” —Teresa Iafolla, Authors Relations Manager
Why it was banned: Challenged for promoting atheism and attacking Christianity, particularly the Catholic church.
And Tango Makes Three
By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
“When I was pregnant with my first child, UC Press colleagues built me an incredible children’s book library, a gift that included And Tango Makes Three. It’s the true story of Silo and Roy, two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became coparents when they hatched an abadoned egg together. Say what you will about animals in captivity, but it’s a sweet and beautifully illustrated story that invites children to consider what makes a family.” —Kate Marshall, Editor
Why it was banned: Presents the true story of a same sex animal parenting partnernship. Apparently some human parents find the story of two male penguin parents inappropriate for children.