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Freedom to Read Week

A guide to Freedom to Read Week for teachers, students, and those interested in intellectual freedom.

Banned/Challenged Book Picks

When Everything Feels Like the Movies

An edgy and extravagant YA novel about a glamorous boy named Jude. School is just like a film set: there's The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn't fit in. He's not part of The Crew because he isn't about to do anything unless it's court-appointed; he's not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he's not a Movie Star because even though everyone knows his name like an A-lister, he isn't invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire. Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It's a total train wreck! But train wrecks always make the front page.

 

Reason for censorship:

Challenged for coarse language, profanity & portrayal of gay lifestyle.

Barometer Rising

Penelope Wain believes that her lover, Neil Macrae, has been killed while serving overseas under her father. That he died apparently in disgrace does not alter her love for him, even though her father is insistent on his guilt. What neither Penelope or her father knows is that Neil is not dead, but has returned to Halifax to clear his name.

 

Reason for censorship: 

At a convention in 1960, members of the Manitoba School Trustees Association voted unanimously to ask Manitoba's department of education to remove this novel from the high school curriculum.  Trustees objected to the "vulgarity and language used" though later admitted to not having read the novel.

The Complete Persepolis

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed graphic memoir. Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

 

Reason for censorship:

One of the most frequently challenged books, Persepolis is often removed from classrooms due to "violent content".

The Handmaid's Tale

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, The Handmaid's Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time. Margaret Atwood is "the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction" (New York Times). Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules. Like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid's Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Violence and offensive language

Bridge to Terabithia

The fortieth anniversary edition of the classic Newbery Award-winning title by beloved author Katherine Paterson, with brand-new bonus materials including an author's note by Katherine herself, and a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Kate DiCamillo.  Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie's house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief. In addition to being a Newbery Award winner, Bridge to Terabithia was also named an ALA Notable Children's Book and has become a touchstone of children's literature, as have many of Katherine Paterson's other novels, including The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob Have I Loved.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Offensive language

The Wars

Grieved by the death of his older sister Rowena, and seeking escape from the stifling confines of Victorian society, nineteen-year-old Robert Ross enlists in the Canadian army to try and absolve himself of the guilt and grief he carries with him. Thrust into the world of war, in all its cruelty and death, Ross fights to cope with his deeply troubled psyche and, in a final act of desperation, prove his commitment to life.

Set in World War I amidst carnage and corpses, blood and nightmares, The Wars is a harrowing, psychological novel of a young man's quest to survive emotional and physical warfare.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Sex and violence.

The Complete Essex County

Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What turns two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the simple-hearted care of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception? Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire pays tribute to his roots with Essex County, an award-winning trilogy of graphic novels set in an imaginary version of his hometown, the eccentric farming community of Essex County, Ontario, Canada. In Essex County, Lemire crafts an intimate study of one community through the years, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a young artist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free. This new edition collects the complete, critically-acclaimed trilogy (Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories, and The Country Nurse) in one deluxe volume! Also included are over 40-pages of previously unpublished material, including two new stories.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Offensive language.

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian satirical black comedy novel by English writer Anthony Burgess, published in 1962. It is set in a near-future society that has a youth subculture of extreme violence. The teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates his violent exploits and his experiences with state authorities intent on reforming him.[1] The book is partially written in a Russian-influenced argot called "Nadsat", which takes its name from the Russian suffix that is equivalent to '-teen' in English.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Offensive language, extreme violence.

Snow Falling on Cedars

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies.  But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder.  In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries--memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched.  Gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric, Snow Falling on Cedars is a masterpiece of suspense-- one that leaves us shaken and changed. "Haunting.... A whodunit complete with courtroom maneuvering and surprising turns of evidence and at the same time a mystery, something altogether richer and deeper."--Los Angeles Times "Compelling...heartstopping. Finely wrought, flawlessly written."--The New York Times Book Review

 

Reason for censorship: 

Sex.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.

 

Reason for censorship:

Banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling and underage drinking as well as religious viewpoint.

His Dark Materials: the Golden Compass (Book 1)

Philip Pullman takes readers to a world where humans have animal familiars and where parallel universes are within reach. Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal--including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want. But what Lyra doesn't know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other... A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman's award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

 

Reason for censorship: 

Sex, violence, offensive language, atheist themes.

This One Summer

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

 

Reason for censorship:

Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and certain illustrations.

Flowers for Algernon

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, the powerful, classic story about a man who receives an operation that turns him into a genius...and introduces him to heartache.   Charlie Gordon is about to embark upon an unprecedented journey. Born with an unusually low IQ, he has been chosen as the perfect subject for an experimental surgery that researchers hope will increase his intelligence-a procedure that has already been highly successful when tested on a lab mouse named Algernon. As the treatment takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment appears to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon suddenly deteriorates. Will the same happen to Charlie?

 

Reason for censorship:

Offensive language.

Lives of Girls and Women

Del Jordan lives out at the end of the Flats Road on her father's fox farm, where her most frequent companions are an eccentric bachelor family friend and her rough younger brother. When she begins spending more time in town, she is surrounded by women-her mother, an agnostic, opinionted woman who sells encyclopedias to local farmers; her mother's boarder, the lusty Fern Dogherty; and her best friend, Naomi, with whom she shares the frustrations and unbridled glee of adolescence. Through these unwitting mentors and in her own encounters with sex, birth, and death, Del explores the dark and bright sides of womanhood. All along she remains a wise, witty observer and recorder of truths in small-town life. The result is a powerful, moving, and humorous demonstration of Alice Munro's unparalleled awareness of the lives of girls and women.

 

Reason for censorship:

Offensive language.

The Giver

Lois Lowry's The Giver is the quintessential dystopian novel, followed by its remarkable companions, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

 

Reason for censorship:

Offensive language.

Foxfire

Joyce Carol Oates's strongest and most unsparing novel yet--an always engrossing, often shocking evocation of female rage, gallantry, and grit.  The time is the 1950s. The place is a blue-collar town in upstate New York, where five high school girls join a gang dedicated to pride, power, and vengeance on a world that seems made to denigrate and destroy them. Here is the secret history of a sisterhood of blood, a haven from a world of male oppressors, marked by a liberating fury that burns too hot to last. Above all, it is the story of Legs Sadovsky, with her lean, on-the-edge, icy beauty, whose nerve, muscle, hate, and hurt make her the spark of Foxfire: its guiding spirit, its burning core. At once brutal and lyrical, this is a careening joyride of a novel--charged with outlaw energy and lit by intense emotion. Amid scenes of violence and vengeance lies this novel's greatest power: the exquisite, astonishing rendering of the bonds that link the Foxfire girls together. Foxfire reaffirms Joyce Carol Oates's place at the very summit of American writing.

 

Reason for censorship:

Sex, violence and offensive language.

The Diviners

The culmination and completion of Margaret Laurence’s celebrated Manawaka cycle, The Diviners is an epic novel.

This is the powerful story of an independent woman who refuses to abandon her search for love. For Morag Gunn, growing up in a small Canadian prairie town is a toughening process – putting distance between herself and a world that wanted no part of her. But in time, the aloneness that had once been forced upon her becomes a precious right – relinquished only in her overwhelming need for love. Again and again, Morag is forced to test her strength against the world – and finally achieves the life she had determined would be hers.

The Diviners has been acclaimed by many critics as the outstanding achievement of Margaret Laurence’s writing career. In Morag Gunn, Laurence has created a figure whose experience emerges as that of all dispossessed people in search of their birthright, and one who survives as an inspirational symbol of courage and endurance.

 

Reason for censorship:

Challenged by religious groups as blasphemous & obscene.

Underground to Canada

Taken away from her mother by a ruthless slave trader, all Julilly has left is the dream of freedom. Every day that she spends huddled in the slave trader's wagon travelling south or working on the brutal new plantation, she thinks about the land where it is possible to be free, a land she and her friend Liza may reach someday. So when workers from the Underground Railroad offer to help the two girls escape, they are ready. But the slave catchers and their dogs will soon be after them...  

 

Reason for censorship:

Offensive language.

Such is my Beloved

One of the great novels of the 1930s, Such Is My Beloved recounts the tragic story of two down-and-out prostitutes and the young priest who aspires to redeem their lives. The novel is at once a compassionate portrait of innocence and idealism, and an emphatic condemnation of a society where the lines between good and evil are essentially blurred.

Such Is My Beloved is widely considered to be Morley Callaghan’s finest novel.

 

Reason for censorship:

Depiction of prostitution and the use of "strong language".

The Satanic Verses

Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined.

 

Reason for censorship:

The Satanic Verses created a widespread controversy with frequently violent reactions condemning the novel for blasphemy and hate speech directed at a specific religious group.  The controversy, also known as the Rushdie affair, spawned a heated debate over freedom of expression and is called one of the most significant events in literary history.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley's profoundly important classic of world literature, Brave New World is a searching vision of an unequal, technologically-advanced future where humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order–all at the cost of our freedom, full humanity, and perhaps also our souls. “A genius [who] who spent his life decrying the onward march of the Machine” (The New Yorker), Huxley was a man of incomparable talents: equally an artist, a spiritual seeker, and one of history’s keenest observers of human nature and civilization. Brave New World, his masterpiece, has enthralled and terrified millions of readers, and retains its urgent relevance to this day as both a warning to be heeded as we head into tomorrow and as thought-provoking, satisfying work of literature. Written in the shadow of the rise of fascism during the 1930s, Brave New World likewise speaks to a 21st-century world dominated by mass-entertainment, technology, medicine and pharmaceuticals, the arts of persuasion, and the hidden influence of elites.

 

Reason for censorship:

Sexually explicit scenes, "offensive language" and "insensitivity".

A Jest of God

In this celebrated novel, Margaret Laurence writes with grace, power, and deep compassion about Rachel Cameron, a woman struggling to come to terms with love, with death, with herself and her world. Trapped in a milieu of deceit and pettiness – her own and that of others – Rachel longs for love, and contact with another human being who shares her rebellious spirit. Through her summer affair with Nick Kazlik, a schoolmate from earlier years, she learns at last to reach out to another person and to make herself vulnerable. A Jest of God won the Governor General’s Award for 1966 and was released as the successful film, Rachel, Rachel. The novel stands as a poignant and singularly enduring work by one of the world’s most distinguished authors.

 

Reason for censorship:

In 1978, a school trustee in Etobicoke, Ont., tried but failed to remove this novel from high school English classes.  The trustee objected to the portrayal of teachers "who had sexual intercourse time and time again, out of wedlock".  He said the novel would diminish the authority of teachers in students' eyes.