Every year in Canada books are challenged, censored or banned. Some challenges have been upheld while others have been rejected. Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about censorship and intellectual freedom.
You may be surprised to learn that these books have been challenged in Canada. How many have you read?
Find out more about Freedom to Read Week. Visit displays in Bracken, Education, Engineering Science, Jordan or Stauffer libraries. Drop by a pop-up event in Stauffer Library on Monday, February 22nd from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. or on Wednesday, February 24th from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Attend a Harry Potter Reading event on Friday, February 26th from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the 1923 Reading Room otherwise known as the “Harry Potter Room” located on the top floor of Douglas Library.
Your organizing committee enjoyed selecting the various banned or challenged books in the displays across the library. Here are some of their further reflections on the questions: As you were researching Freedom to Read Week, were you surprised by any of the banned or challenged books? Do you have a favourite banned or challenged book?
Kim Bell, W.D. Jordan Special Collections I was extremely surprised to find that Braille books had been banned. Although Braille is a typeface and not a particular title, I was astonished to learn that c.1838, the director of the Institution for Blind Children, P. Armand Dufau, didn’t agree with Braille and burned some 73 books that had been embossed. To ensure that the students stopped using Braille, he also confiscated the slates, styli, and other Braille-writing equipment. The students rebelled, however, and secretly used knitting needles, nails and other implements. The older students taught the system to the younger students and, eventually, the ban was lifted. I am not a big fan of comic sans, but could never imagine burning books that contained it!
My favorite banned book is the Diviners. I had to read it in high school, and there was much discussion around it being banned in the 1970’s. There is nothing like telling a class of teen-agers that the supporters of the ban felt that the book “reeked of sordidness” in order to get them to read! I feel bad that it became a personal attack on Laurence—that never should have been allowed to happen.
Anne Newman, Adaptive Technology Centre, Stauffer Library I was surprised to learn that Laura Ingalls Wilders’ On the Banks of Plum Creek was challenged in 1997 by parents in the Fort Garry Division, Winnipeg concerned the content of the book used offensive references to Aboriginal and First Nation individuals. The School Superintendent responded that “stories like this are an important part of our history on this continent. Simply eradicating them from shelves does not seem to be the answer”.
We have read the series of novels as a family. I understand the concern regarding inappropriate references, and I understand the statement of the Superintendent. They are valuable recollections from the past, the context of which should be respected by the reader.
Amy Rutherford, Education Library When looking for the children’s books that have been banned or challenged I was surprised to see Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop. Apparently it was challenged by a patron of the Toronto Public Library who thought it promoted violence because it “encourages children to use violence against their fathers.” You never know what will offend people.
The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munroe is a book that I have read at least twice in different English Classes. It was not necessarily my favourite book, but one that has always stayed with me because it is so honestly written and provoking. It was challenged because of its “explicit language and descriptions of sex scenes”. I think it probably scared teachers at that time because she wrote a female heroine who was not “stereotypically feminine”.
Jillian Sparks, W.D. Jordan Special Collections I was surprised to find that Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel was banned in the United States until 1930—four centuries after the first part was printed! It caught me off guard to find that classic and many other canonical works have been banned or challenged. My favourite challenged work is Captain Underpants (1997) by Dav Pilkey, a silly little novel that was the number one challenged book in 2012 and 2013. Apparently, some people just can’t appreciate a good fart joke.
Peter Waldron, Bracken Library It never surprise me that objections, complaints, and negative views seem to carry more weight and are of greater value than positive views. This trend of a “culture of complaining” is both perplexing and tiresome. My favorite challenged book is The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margret Attwood. Got to love a good dystopia fiction. If we are not careful such “Dystopian fiction” could become “Dystopian fact”.