Banning works of literature is nothing new. Since 1990, the American Library Association (ALA) has been monitoring formal complaints submitted. Given some of the odd ways opposition forms, they surely have their hands full.
A common reason for the effort is under the vague claim of community concerns. This is where geography comes into poetry and book cover art. Varying from state to state, trends can be identified with what might cause dismissal based on culture and voting habits. Specifics can range from profanity to disagreement with the lifestyle of the characters and personalities.
It's an interesting topic in a country quite vocal about the right of expression. These are the most shocking highlights from the sea of books only likely to grow further.
1. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" (1967)
Funny, but also awkward. The children's book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by the currently deceased author, Bill Martin Jr., actually didn't do anything perceived to be wrong or offensive. It was all a naming mishap that could be avoided with the very popular world wide web or majestic Google.
While Texas State of Education board members were saving the world from scary literature with curse words in it, they targeted the very much alive philosophy professor Bill Martin Jr. at DePaul University. Another Bill Martin's book, "Ethical Marxism," is what got this whole ball rolling. Strong opposition stemmed from its critique of the capitalist structure. "Brown Bear" certainly isn't a political coffee-starter (We don't know if Brown Bear did happen to see Karl Marx off-screen, however).
2. "The Lorax" (1971)
Yup, even Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" couldn't escape bureaucracy. It tells the story of a happy environment where peace gets disrupted upon the appearance of Onceler. He wants to make space for a factory and its customers. Driven only by money, he shows disdain for nature and the inhabitants.
Destroying the breezy flowers and lively forest, "The Lorax" does not shy from discussing pollution and the displacement of creatures. This is a topic that couldn't be more relevant today. However, opponents felt Dr. Seuss was celebrating harrowing anti-logger themes. Determined board members refused to allow the book to go on educating about the planet and warning of unchecked human expansion. This is why we can't have nice things.
3. Literally any Mexican-American book
Usually, bans are isolated to a particular book or criteria, such as foul language. But this is just an all-out barrage. Given the rich and plentiful amount of published ethnic books, to name each target would be quite long. There is a spiritual and collective experience with those pages. Starting with Tucson, the Mexican-American Studies curriculum in Arizona schools caused a stir with politicians. A 2010 power trip via state-wide ban was declared on any ethnic-based learning. Any infrastructure in discordance would lose state funding.
Those behind it claimed it was to make an inclusive environment. However, inclusive learning should include an ethnic and multicultural approach. Blending, not excluding, is one way. Especially given the power dynamic, since these writers are already underrepresented as it is. Given the region's large Mexican-American population, students are eager to understand all of their roots.
It only took one glance for protesters to most definitely pour out with their paper signs galore. Challenges were made questioning its constitutionality. On the grounds of 1st and 14th Amendments, the successful programs were revived. This is on the extreme end and shows just how far some will go to erase an identity. How can anyone imagine colleges without ethnic classes? A liberal arts degree without core general ed classes usually outside your major?
4. "The Diary of a Young Girl" (1947)
This ban is particularly troubling. With a considerable amount of evidence of the Holocaust destroyed, personal accounts are a crucial source to understand what happened within those concentration camps. History has always been this way, from oral stories to scriptures carved in walls. Anne Franke's diary has served as an accurate relic of immense value and is read throughout the world.
One reason for opposition was its direct references to gay people. The Holocaust did not only target and affect Jewish people. Victims were captured and tortured for their sexuality too. Trying to ignore an identity does not cease it from existing. But that has not stopped history, all the way from the Middle Ages to the contemporary chairman, from trying. This plays a role in reaffirming hidden histories the LGBTQIA community already suffer from in the biased, hegemonic, grand narrative of the US.
Others took an indiscriminate route, citing its melancholy nature. History is known for being quite sad, especially when it comes to genocide. Rather than hide or water-down harrowing events and life under Nazi oppression, people should learn exactly what occurred so it truly never happens again. Officials should not cherry pick history or accounts because of sensitivity. Education needs to be honest and inclusive. Anything else and it's unfair to the victims and the public itself.
5. "Where The Wild Things Are" (1963)
This children's book is about a boy finding peace among gentle creatures, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Classic and beloved, its popularity led to a 2009 film adaptation. Movie directors and producers' hearts were won over, but not everyone's. Strong disapproval stems from a scene where the child Max is sent to bed without eating dinner. Understandably, educators would disapprove of this applied to real life. But their classroom students – those actually reading the book – should not be the ones unable to explore its imagery and Max's adventures when on a full stomach.
6. The "Twilight" Series (2005-2008)
This book series has generated intense emotions (and many films that could've been condensed if box offices weren't so money-hungry). The fans love it and the haters hate it. Some find Stephanie Meyer's fantasy vampire love story to be an enjoying escape. On the direct opposite side, others may very well enjoy knowing this book was banned somewhere, particularly in Australia. That country is normally relaxed when it comes to this topic, whereas Americans are banning books left and right.
What pushed one Australian librarian's buttons too far was the fear that readers wouldn't be able to differentiate it from non-fiction. If people can't do that, "Twilight" surely isn't the reason. The first clue might be that Edward is clearly defined as a vampire doing all kinds of vampire stuff. This is repeated throughout the four books, in case someone happens to miss the first 100 instances.