This week is Banned Books week, dedicated to the freedom of right we have to read. It’s an important topic, yet one I’ve not felt so closely as other people around the world. Living in Australia I’m blessed to not have to fight for my right to read a book in the same way that people in some parts of the US or in China or many other regions of the world do. In fact, based on a list of banned books in Australia’s history compiled by the University of Melbourne, Brett Ellis Easton’s American Psycho is one of the few books still banned and that’s only in Queensland.
I support the right to read not because I agree with everything that a controversial book may contain, but because of the challenges they present. These are often books that make you think, that reveal problems and flaws in society or show an alternative way of living. They can change your mind on a topic but they can also strengthen your current viewpoint. They open the way for discussion on racism, sex and sexuality and a range of other topics that shouldn’t just be swept under the rug like they don’t exist.
But that’s enough of a rant for the moment. I promised you 5 surprising banned books in the title and here they are:
1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
It’s a story about a horse – how controversial can it be, right? Well, the problem is in the title. At least that’s what Apartheid era South Africa thought, simply because of the word ‘black’ being in the title. And I guess because black can’t really be beautiful, can it?
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
If it’s the whole inappropriate Lewis Carroll obsession with Alice Liddell thing than you’re wrong. It’s all because animals are portrayed as equal with humans. This got Alice banned in a Chinese province in 1931.
3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchel
This epic love story has been suppressed in some US states because of its use of racist language.
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
I love this book and was just a bit bewildered by the news that this book has been banned by some schools. The reasoning for this was because it contained some swearing and the main protagonist’s mother has an affair.
5. The darkening ecliptic by ‘Ern Malley’
So I would be surprised if you’d heard of this one and it’s not technically a book but it is a great story. For starters ‘Ern Malley’ is not a real person. He was a concoction of two Australian poets who wanted to make a point to the editor of a publication they didn’t really like. These two poets invented a poet and a bunch of nonsense poetry and sent it off to Angry Birds. The editor Max Harris thought the poetry was genius and published away. When it was revealed the whole thing was a hoax Harris was left more than a little red faced. The South Australian police judged the poems obscene and impounded the issue of Angry Birds in 1945.