Banned Books Week 2017

ALA 2016 Book Challenges Infographic

This is the first day of Banned Books week. It’s a celebration of the right to read. Books are constantly challenged in the context of the right to read them, the right to sell them, the right for teachers and libraries to include specific books in their curricula and libraries. Book challenges and book bans take place far more often than people realize, and often, the books are challenged by adults who haven’t read the books in question, but want to make sure that others can’t.

Most challenges are made by parents who not only want to stop their children from reading a particular book, they want to stop all children. The second largest group in terms of book challenges in 2016 were challenges made by library patrons who wanted to have a book removed from a library’s collection.

The First Amendment is generally seen as the primary protection regarding the right to read. The First amendment to the Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Increasingly, as you can see from these top ten lists of challenged books, books are challenged (and subsequently removed from school curricula and library collections) because of concerns about reference to sex, or because they include LGBT characters.

Large numbers of books that some people don’t want you to read are classics. Many are children’s books. Increasingly, the challenged and banned books are YA books or books challenged because they feature diverse content, that is:

the work is about people and issues others would prefer not to consider. Often, content addresses concerns of groups who have suffered historic and ongoing discrimination.

The challenged books (and they become banned when schools or libraries remove them from shelves) include books like Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Look at the lists of challenged and banned books, to see if a book that’s meaningful to you, or that you loved reading is there; I’m pretty sure you’ll find an old friend or three there, as well as lots of new friends. Consider participating in the Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament, or Absolute Write’s own local contest described here.

You’ll notice a lot of canon novels are considered worth banning; here are just a few. The books on this list are books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that have been the target of ban attempts.

  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.
  2. J.D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.
  3. John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.
  4. Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  5. Alice Walker. The Color Purple.
  6. James Joyce. Ulysses.
  7. Toni Morrison. Beloved.
  8. William Golding. The Lord of the Flies.
  9. George Orwell. 1984.
  1. Vladmir Nabokov. Lolita.
  2. John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men.
  1. Joseph Heller. Catch-22.
  2. Aldous Huxley. Brave New World.
  3. George Orwell. Animal Farm.
  4. Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises.
  5. William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying.
  6. Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms.
  1. Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  2. Ralph Ellison. Invisible Man.
  3. Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon.
  4. Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind.
  5. Richard Wright. Native Son.
  6. Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  7. Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five.
  8. Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  1. Jack London. The Call of the Wild.
  1. James Baldwin. Go Tell it on the Mountain.
  1. Robert Penn Warren. All the King’s Men.
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings.
  1. Upton Sinclair. The Jungle.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
  2. Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange.
  3. Kate Chopin. The Awakening.
  1. Truman Capote. In Cold Blood.
  1. Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses.
  1. William Styron. Sophie’s Choice.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers.
  1. Kurt Vonnegut. Cat’s Cradle.
  2. John Knowles. A Separate Peace.
  1. William S. Burroughs. Naked Lunch.
  2. Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited.
  3. D.H. Lawrence. Women in Love.
  1. Norman Mailer. The Naked and the Dead.
  1. Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer.
  1. Theodore Dreiser. An American Tragedy.
  1. John Updike. Rabbit, Run.

There are Absolute Write affiliate links in this post.

Poetry Manifesto

Poetry is the philanthropy of the illuminated mind to the dulled wits of those immured in the tragedy of mundanity. —Aero Gantz of Pampa City.

Poetry is the truest literary, spoken and visualized form of communication. Whether sonnet, haiku or that apex of wit, the limerick. Only the poet can fully immerse themselves in the creative world, from ordering in rhyme at a restaurant to wearing the beret required by Our Muse. Poetry must flow throw your veins, and serve as your soul’s breath. Poets give us words like these noble verses about the Magdalene’s eyes:

Two walking baths; two weeping motions;
Portable, and compendious oceans.

Narrative is the realm of the banal, the pedantic halfwit who thinks himself wise, yet lacks meter and rhyme. Naked prose is harsh, crude and uninspiring, without the adornment offered by poetic figures. True masterpieces speak the language of poetry even when clothed in prose:

Her cheeks were almost as red as her hair already, like red Delicious apples under green leaves which were her eyes and the dark pupils were like little curled up caterpillars in the middle—Travis Tea

Poetry speaks to and from the soul. It tickles and caresses the mind as one mulls over the next word or phrase to imbue the reader with a kaleidoscope of images that flow from each precious verse. Only the poet can engender true rapture in the reader, such that

My ear is open like a greedy shark,
To catch the tunings of a voice divine.

All writing is poetic, to the truly sensitive soul. Never in the history of mankind ever has there ever been a more perfect, more inspiring or more nobler form of communication than poetry. One must aspire to exalt the noble art to its highest incarnation; to bring joy and bliss to the world with wit, rhyme and the perfection of the 5/7/5 haiku, or, in the highest form of poetic art, the limerick.

Pity those unable to grasp and embrace the rich visual beauty of the spoken sonnet. Mourn the barren souls of those bereft of the lyrical gift of rhyme. Know that deep down frankly, you are more perfect, more better and more refined than the mouth-breathing, knuckle dragger who hears a couplet and thinks, that’s it. Buffoons.

If you have so earth-creeping a mind that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry . . . thus much curse I must send you, in the behalf of all poets, that while you live, you live in love, and never get favour for lacking skill of a sonnet; and, when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph.

Happy April 1. Now go read some good poetry in honor of National Poetry Month.

Absolute Write Forums Upgrade and Brief Outage

We’re going to have a short break in Absolute Write service from 9 am Saturday, May 9 2015, to 9 pm, Sunday, May 10 2015, Pacific Time.

We’re upgrading the software for the forums. It will be a little different, but mostly the same (only better!).

What you can do to help is, just in case, save a copy of your avatar. We expect the have them all lined up properly, but just in case, save your avatar.

While you wait for the forums to be back up, we suggest you write.

If you want to track our progress as we introduce new hamsters to our established server hamsters, you can hang out with us

  • on Twitter:

  • on the Absolute Write Facebook page

  • And of course, AW Chat will still be running. We do Word Wars, weekly writing challenges, occasional sentence workshopping, and the hungrier you are the more likely we are to be talking about food.

Note our special Contest during the server upgrade!

While You Wait: A Writing Prompt Contest!

While you wait for AW’s forums to return after their spiffy upgrade, here’s a contest you can participate in right here.

Come up with a writing prompt that your fellow AWers can work on while they wait for the Forums/AW Water Cooler to be back after the upgrade.

Keep in mind that we have all kinds of writers at AW, our members write fiction of every conceivable sort, screen plays, poetry, and non fiction, ranging from how-tos, to biography, history, memoir . . . you name it, we have writers who write it, so keep that in mind when you’re creating your prompts.

We will select the best writing prompt entered as a comment to this post, and judged by the Absolute Write mods.

The winner of the best prompt will receive a hardcover or ebook (winner’s choice) The Library at Mount Char, a novel from Penguin Random’s Crown coming out June 15, 2015 by our very own AW Technical Guru and all around amazing guy, Scott Hawkins.

The Library at Mount Char is Scott Hawkins’ first novel. Kirkus Reviews called it “A spellbinding story of world-altering power and revenge from debut novelist Hawkins.”

You can read more about The Library At Mount Char here.

Start entering your best writing prompts (no more than 3 entries per person please) in a Comment below. We’ll be moderating comments, but will do that as quickly as possible, so those of you following along can actually start writing in response to any prompt that appeals.

We will close entries on Monday, May 11, 2015 at 9 AM Seattle time.

We’ll have a special thread on AW for prompt-inspired writing.

It’s Banned Books Week!


ALAla.org banned books banner

You can read more about it here.

In the meantime, what’s on the ALA banned and challenged list that you’ve read and loved? The books on this list are books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that have been the target of ban attempts.

  1. F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.
  2. J.D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.
  3. John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.
  4. Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  5. Alice Walker. The Color Purple.
  6. James Joyce. Ulysses.
  7. Toni Morrison. Beloved.
  8. William Golding. The Lord of the Flies.
  9. George Orwell. 1984.
  1. Vladmir Nabokov. Lolita.
  2. John Steinbeck. Of Mice and Men.
  1. Joseph Heller. Catch-22.
  2. Aldous Huxley. Brave New World.
  3. George Orwell. Animal Farm.
  4. Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises.
  5. William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying.
  6. Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms.
  1. Zora Neale Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  2. Ralph Ellison. Invisible Man.
  3. Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon.
  4. Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind.
  5. Richard Wright. Native Son.
  6. Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  7. Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five.
  8. Ernest Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  1. Jack London. The Call of the Wild.
  1. James Baldwin. Go Tell it on the Mountain.
  1. Robert Penn Warren. All the King’s Men.
  1. J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings.
  1. Upton Sinclair. The Jungle.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
  2. Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange.
  3. Kate Chopin. The Awakening.
  1. Truman Capote. In Cold Blood.
  1. Salman Rushdie. The Satanic Verses.
  1. William Styron. Sophie’s Choice.
  1. D.H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers.
  1. Kurt Vonnegut. Cat’s Cradle.
  2. John Knowles. A Separate Peace.
  1. William S. Burroughs. Naked Lunch.
  2. Evelyn Waugh. Brideshead Revisited.
  3. D.H. Lawrence. Women in Love.
  1. Norman Mailer. The Naked and the Dead.
  1. Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer.
  1. Theodore Dreiser. An American Tragedy.
  1. John Updike. Rabbit, Run.