Mosaic Guide to Banned Books

Banned Books Lorraine Cook/THE REVIEW
Last week’s celebration of banned books reminds readers that many popular books are challenged for the their content.


In honor of Banned Books week last week, we bring you a short list of provocative publications. From childhood favorites to beloved classics, each title captures the power —and necessity— of free expression.

“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi: “I had learned that you should always shout louder than your aggressor.”

In 2000, the Iranian-born French graphic novelist, Marjane Satrapi, wrote “Persepolis,” a story that explores her childhood in Iran. After the Iranian Revolution, Satrapi and her family were faced with the fundamentalist regimes that came into power, forcing her to eventually move to France for her safety. “Persepolis” is the second book found on the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of the “Most Frequently Banned Books” for its “gambling, offensive language and political viewpoint.”

“Looking for Alaska” by John Green: “The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.”

John Green swiftly became unprecedented in the world of Young Adult (YA) fiction with his 2012 novel “The Fault in Our Stars.” His debut novel “Looking for Alaska,” published in 2005, tells the story of a young man at an Alabama boarding school trying to make sense of the death of enigmatic Alaska Young. The book has been challenged for its depictions of sex, teenage alcohol abuse and explicit language.

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak: “And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”

After its initial publication in 1963, Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” was banned from most libraries due to the problematic depiction of emotions in the young main character, Max. Because he was argumentative and aggressive and didn’t go along with what his mother said, parents didn’t want their children exposed to a book they thought would give their children bad ideas. Since then, it has received numerous awards, including the Caldecott Medal for outstanding children’s literature.

“Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling: “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness. Nothing more.”

In 1997, J.K. Rowling introduced us to a boy wizard and his fantastical world. Since then, the “Harry Potter” books—and movies—have become larger than life, inspiring a passionate fandom like no other. Though these books champion themes such as love, acceptance and friendship, they are frequently challenged for their promotion of “witchcraft.”

“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain: “Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”

Published in 1884, Mark Twain’s American classic was said to “perpetuate racism” and in 1885, librarians in Concord, Mass. called it “not suitable for trash” and banned the book. The “N-word” appears 219 times in the novel, and it has become one of the most challenged and banned books in America.

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