A Brief History of Stupid Book Bans, from Twelfth Night to Where’s Waldo?

As Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man gets banned in one school district, it's important to reflect on what other great books have been banned and why

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Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man has just been banned in school libraries in one North Carolina county. The 1952 novel about a man who seems to have fallen into a racial oblivion in America has remained firmly on countless school reading lists and many lists of best books, including TIME’s own Top 100. So it may seem surprising that the book was banned, and not for inappropriate content — as books often are — but rather for lack of literary merit, according to one Randolph County school board member.

This book wasn’t simply removed from reading lists, either. It was explicitly banned by a 5-2 vote, which took place after a 12-page complaint was placed by a parent who thought the story was inappropriate for her 11th grade child.

Here’s a look at other notable books that have been banned In the last two decades.

The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank. In 2010, a Virginia School District decided to use a censored version of Anne Frank’s Diary because one parent felt it was sexual, and even homosexual. You know who also didn’t like homosexuals? The Nazis.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. Strangely enough, this adorable book about a bear was banned only briefly in 2010 because a school board, clearly incapable of using the internet, thought that the author, Bill Martin, was the same Martin who wrote a book called Ethical Marxism.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. A few years ago, schools in California banned this book because it defined oral sex. Apparently it’s better to be illiterate than to know what oral sex is.

500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, Elizabeth Martinez. Banned recently in Tucson, Arizona’s school district, where, according to Marshall University, at least 60% of students are from Mexican-American families. The whole Mexican studies program was nixed. The real question isn’t so much why, but rather, how was this decision attributed to anything other than racism?

Where’s Waldo, Martin Handford.  Apparently if you look closely enough, there’s a breast in one of the images. Some school districts didn’t like that, so in the early 1990s they made sure Waldo Would never be found again, not realizing that it would be nearly impossible to find the culprit.

Scary Stories, Alvin Schwartz. Anyone who had read these books will confirm that they are as terrifying as the drawings are haunting. That’s no reason to ban them, as some school districts decided to do in the last three years—there are only so many ways to teach your children not to hide in small small spaces.

Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare.  In 1996 schools in a  New Hampshire town thought that the alternative lifestyle promoted by this story, wasn’t good for their kids to learn about.

MORE: The Hunger Games Reaches Another Milestone: Top 10 Censored Books

7 comments
SarahConfran
SarahConfran

all book bans are stupid. every. single. one. 

bojimbo26
bojimbo26

What I find amazing about America : a few weeks ago I saw a video about a young child that had to see a psycotherapist because there was a fight at a school .

JackEason
JackEason

While what you say is true, eBook piracy has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the article. Its all about book banning in certain states within the US. Perhaps you should read it more closely this time roun. :)

JackEason
JackEason

As a non American, it always amuses me how narrow minded certain sections within your society are. For instance, why Twelfth Night was banned simply boggles the mind....

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

@JackEason  

as an American, it always amuses me how people who don't live here think they know what's best for us and feel like their opinion a) is desired and b) matters. boggles the mind...

LouisEstebanMontalvo
LouisEstebanMontalvo

@#libtardedamerica @JackEason My family and I live in the States. It boggles our minds that we still do this in the United States of America.  Most of us who have half a sense of history know what happens when books and ideas are suppressed. It NEVER goes well for those societies - EVER.

There was once a burgeoning society in the middles east, mathematics was their specialty, as they were the trade capital of the world at the time. We even still use the numbers, which originated in India, but were capitalized by this society. The names of countless stars came from that society... All this excellence in training one's mind lasted for a good while... Until someone came into power and decreed that mathematics was of the devil and books and new ideas were banned and burned. That society NEVER recovered fully from that intellectual disaster.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is where the United States of America is headed if we don't straighten up and fly right so far as education is concerned ASAP.