Get Caught Reading Banned Books

Banned Books Mugshot
Jailed Book Ulysses grapes of wrath Slaughterhouse Five

I am guilty of reading subversive literature filled to the brim with dangerous ideas and inflammatory language. I have been committing illicit acts of reading since I was a child, though my teen years were my most seditious. Yet I have never been arrested, or had to smuggle in a restricted book. I have always enjoyed the right to read freely and that is why I celebrate Banned Books Week.

This year Banned Books Week is September 22-28 and I encourage you to visit your local Denver Public Library branch and get caught reading banned books! If you have your mug shot photo taken with your favorite banned book, be sure to share it with us on the DPL facebook page.

The cynics may point out that these days there are far more challenges to books than successful bans and no one is really arrested for reading. So why all the hubbub about banned books? 
The truth is, in our not too distant past, right here in America, books were banned and others literally burned. Let’s take a look back at some of America’s own acts of censorship and celebrate how far we’ve come.

  • James Joyce’s Ulysses was not even allowed to enter the country on the basis that reading it might inspire “impure and lustful thoughts.” Finally in 1933, a decade after its publication, a federal judge ruled that the book was not obscene, and concluded that, "If one does not wish to associate with such folks as Joyce describes, that is one's own choice."
  • In 1939 The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was BURNED on the steps of the East St. Louis, IL Public Library on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used, while simultaneously climbing the bestseller list. Other private citizens took to burning the book as well, including in Kern County, CA (the characters’ final destination) where it was considered “liable and lie” and banned from local libraries. Even against such popular outrage, one local librarian struggled to overturn the ban.
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut still suffers challenges and was banned yet again from a Missouri high school in 2011. This classic has been accused of being vulgar and obscene, containing profanity and sexually explicit material, and more. In 1973, however, the local high school in Drake, ND took its disapproval of Vonnegut’s novel too far and burned all 32 copies in the school furnace.

In response to the 1973 book burning, Vonnegut wrote,
“Perhaps you will learn from this that books are sacred to free men for very good reasons, and that wars have been fought against nations which hate books and burn them. If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.”

Today our freedom to read is protected by the Library Bill of Rights and most challenges prove unsuccessful. Yet the challenges to remove and restrict books from schools and communities continue. Stand up for your right to read and check out a banned book this week at your local Denver Public Library branch.

Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2012

What’s your favorite banned or challenged book?

Is there a banned or challenged book that you would risk jail time for?


I was floored reading the details of this case. From the L.A. Times article:
“I didn’t find any literary value,” said school board member Gary Mason before the board voted 5-2 to ban the book.
I am aghast.

#1 veiled and silenced, think it's by Alvin Schmidt,
about how male authority figures twisted the bible into an instrument for oppression of women.

guess it's banned--it's very hard to find, can't borrow it through Denver public library or Any interlibrary loan system I have used in the past ten years. but I still remember much of it. made a huge impression on me.

#2 born of a woman, by bishop spong. similar concepts, except that as bishop spong persisted in exploring new or non-conservative concepts about Christianity, he was finally stripped of his office, think maybe excommunicated from his religion. think his church just gave up on book-burning, banned the author.

#3 GOD: a biography, by jack miles. I infuriated a fundamentalist pastor who was my best friend for years because I read it with eagerness, then asked him to explain what I was reading.

It's essentially a psychological analysis of the personality of god, as presented in the bible. I think he would've loved to burn this book, it defied his sense of authority, and led to the end of our friendship.

fundamentalist preachers would have you believe that GOD is/was/always will be perfect, never mind the erratic behavior over the centuries that the bible covers. so it was like, read the Bible, just don't THINK about WHAT you are reading. hmmmm......

I suppose I could be a real-live heretic. interesting.

Hmm- I couldn't find any reports of Veiled and Silenced being banned, though it does look like it is mostly available through university libraries.

I think I'll add God:a Biography to my reading list. Thanks!

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