Friday, September 30, 2011

Banned Books Week 2011: The Color Purple

The words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (" The One Un-American Act." Nieman Reports , vol. 7, no. 1, Jan. 1953, p. 20):

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Unfortunately, this is a book that I have not read yet.  I did see the film and it was so wonderful.  I know the book must be even more wonderful.  The most common reasons for its being challenged are that it is sexually explicit, contains offensive language, and for violence.  A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, it tells the story of a woman who is sexually abused by her father and then married off to a violent and abusive man.  It is a telling examination of how African Americans were treated in that era, how they were suppressed and maligned by some white people.  Even whites who professed to be their friends turned out to be suspicious and mistrustful of them in reality.  The Color Purple not only illustrates the historical realities of the lives of many African Americans during that time, but it also parallels their suppression with Celie's suppressed life.  Yet another historical novel that should not be kept from young adults because there are important lessons about our past in its pages.

--The Color Purple is on the ALA Top Ten Challenged Books in 2007 (#6) and 2009 (#9)

--On the Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color 1990-1999

--On the 100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999 (#17), the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 (#17), and one of at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that have been the target of ban attempts. --ALA

Specific Instances:
--Challenged as appropriate reading for Oakland, CA High School honors class (1984) due to the work's "sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." After nine months of haggling and delays, a divided Oakland Board of Education gave formal approval for the book's use. 
--Rejected for purchase by the Hayward, CA school's trustee (1985) because of "rough language" and "explicit sex scenes." 
--Removed from the open shelves of the Newport News, VA school library (1986) because of its "profanity and sexual references" and placed in a special section accessible only to students over the age of 18 or who have written permission from a parent. 
--Challenged at the public libraries of Saginaw, MI (1989) because it was “too sexually graphic for a 12-year-old.” 
--Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN (1989) because of its language and "explicitness." 
--Challenged as an optional reading assigned in Ten Sleep, WY schools (1990). 
--Challenged as a reading assignment at the New Burn, NC High School (1992) because the main character is raped by her stepfather. 
--Banned in the Souderton, PA Area School District (1992) as appropriate reading for 10th graders because it is "smut." 
--Challenged on the curricular reading list at Pomperaug High School in Southbury, CT (1995) because sexually explicit passages aren’t appropriate high school reading. 
--Retained as an English course reading assignment in the Junction City, OR high school (1995) after a challenge to Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel caused months of controversy. Although an alternative assignment was available, the book was challenged due to "inappropriate language, graphic sexual scenes, and book's negative image of black men." 
--Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, FL (1995). 
--Retained on the Round Rock, TX Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. 
--Challenged, but retained, as part of the reading list for Advanced Placement English classes at Northwest High Schools in High Point, NC (1996). The book was challenged because it is "sexually graphic and violent." 
--Removed from the Jackson County, WV school libraries (1997) along with sixteen other titles.
--Challenged, but retained as part of a supplemental reading list at the Shawnee School in Lima, OH (1999). Several parents described its content as vulgar and "X-rated." 
--Removed from the Ferguson High School library in Newport News, VA (1999). Students may request and borrow the book with parental approval. 
--Challenged, along with seventeen other titles in the Fairfax County, VA elementary and secondary libraries (2002), by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools. The group contends the books "contain profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct, and torture.” 
--Challenged in Burke County (2008) schools in Morgantown, NC by parents concerned about the homosexuality, rape, and incest portrayed in the book. 

--from ALA


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I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. It has been so long since I've read this that I don't even think I can count it as "read" - I remember almost nothing!

  2. This is a great book. I haven't read it for years. You should let me know when you get around to reading it, and I'll re-read it with you.

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