Books Challenged and Banned in 2008-2009

To continue our celebration of Banned Books Week, this week’s blogs will focus on books challenged and banned in 2008-2009; the books and information about the bans and challenges come from Robert P. Doyle’s published list.

It’s hard to believe books are still challenged and banned today, but here are three that have been recent targets.

Grendel by John C. Gardner:

Most of us will come across this book at some point in our academic careers if we read British literature. Grendel was published in 1971, and retells the story of Beowulf from the Grendel’s point of view; Beowulf is an 8th century Anglo Saxon epic. According to Amazon.com, “Beowulf is the earliest extant poem in a modern European language. It was composed in England four centuries before the Norman Conquest. But no one knows exactly when it was composed, or by whom, or why. As a social document this great epic reflects a feudal, newly Christian world of heroes and monsters, blood and victory and death.”

Grendel was challenged in the Sherwood, Oregon school district after being added to the sophomore honors English class’ reading list. Parents were concerned about scenes in the novel that describe torture and mutilation. Grendel was not banned, though, and remains on the reading list.

King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland:

King & King is a fairy tale about gay marriage. This book was read to a Lexington, Mass. second grade class as part of a unit about different types of weddings. Parents of one of the second-graders were offended that the teacher read this book, and claimed the teacher was trying to “indoctrinate” the children with a “homosexual agenda.” The book was not banned, despite the efforts of a group known as the Parents Rights Coalition, which fights to remove books in the state schools that discuss homosexuality.  This Coalition took their case to court, claiming this book’s, and other books’, homosexual themes are religiously offensive. The case was overruled each time, and the Coalition is planning on appealing it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya:

According to CliffsNotes.com, “In Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, set in New Mexico in the 1940s, young Antonio becomes obsessed with questions about destiny, life and death, and good and evil. When elderly folk healer Ultima moves in with Antonio’s family to live out her last days, Antonio turns to her for guidance when he loses confidence in parental viewpoints and Catholicism. Bless Me, Ultima is the first of a trilogy in which author Rudolpho Anaya skillfully sets up dialogue between Antonio and Ultima.”

This book was banned from Newman, California’s Orestimba High School’s English classes. The superintendent banned the book after complaints that the book is profane and anti-Catholic.

Who knew books would continue to cause so much controversy and even lead to taking a case to the Supreme Court? Check out Wednesday and Thursday’s blogs for information about more books banned in 2008-2009.

-CS

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