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In acknowledgement of Banned Book Week, a week dedicated to celebrating the freedom to read, we take a look at books in the TAFE Queensland Library collection which have been challenged in other countries.

The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Approximately one million copies of this novel are still sold each year, with total sales exceeding 65 million books. The plot follows disillusioned teenager Holden Caulfield as he returns home after being expelled from school. Avoiding speaking to his parents about his expulsion, he meets with friends and tries to work out what he will do next.

The Catcher in the Rye has been particularly challenged in America, with an Oklahoma teacher fired for having her class read it in 1960 (she was later rehired). The book continued to be highly censored in high schools and libraries until the early 1980s.

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Fun home: a family tragicomic (2006)

Cartoonist Alison Bechdel, best known for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, also used her graphic skills while writing her memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Bechdel describes her dysfunctional family and childhood in an unconventional non-linear style while using hand drawn art and a muted colour palette. The memoir features topics such as gender and sexual orientation, suicide, and the influence of literature in self-identity.

Due to this, Fun Home has been challenged repeatedly in schools and libraries. In 2013 the College of Charlston (USA) lost over AU$100,000 in funding after selecting this work for a reading list.

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The Hate U Give (2017)

The Hate U Give examines issues that affect modern black Americans such as race relations, code switching (moving between different ways of speaking), the Black Lives Matter movement, and police brutality. The novel has won multiple awards but continues to be challenged due to its themes, as well as the vulgar language used by the characters.

The story is about Star Carter, a black teenager who must switch between living with her family in the poor neighbourhood of Garden Heights and attending an elite prep school. She becomes the sole witness to a case of police brutality when her friend Khalil is shot dead after the police stop their car. Will she speak out publicly, even if it costs her dearly?

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To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been said to be probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America. Set in the 1930s American South, the story follows two young children, Jem and Scout, as their father Atticus Finch defends an African American man is accused of rape by a white woman.

To Kill a Mockingbird was a banned book in Australia, because of its descriptions of violence and its use of the N-word. It still faces challenges in the US due to the characters’ use of racial slurs, swearing, and sexual assault.

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The Harry Potter series

The seven book Harry Potter series by British author J. K. Rowling follows the adventures of the titular character as he attends the magical school Hogwarts and fights against dark forces. Harry Potter readers range from children to adults, and the series is read globally.

The series has faced challenges and bans across many different countries including America, Greece, Bulgaria and the United Arab Emirates for its occult themes, spells and magical protagonists. Protests against it are ongoing, as it has been included on the American Library Associations' Top 10 Banned Book List in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2019.

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Brave New World (1932)

Written by Aldous Huxley in 1932, Brave New World is a dystopian science fiction novel set in 2540. Its protagonist, John, must try to navigate a world that values order and false happiness above other emotions and personal freedom. The plot features artificial breeding of people, forced sleep learning, mass psychological control and other frightening predictions of social control.

Brave New World has faced bans and challenges around the world due to offensive language, nudity, racism, conflict with a religious viewpoint, and being sexually explicit.

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On the Origin of Species (1859)

This book documents Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and is based on the evidence he gathered during his five-year expedition around the world on the ship HMS Beagle. From December 1831 to October 1836, he gathered numerous animal specimens, most famously bird species from the Galapagos Islands and South America. These specimens helped him develop his theory.

Darwin published it in 1859, and it ignited heated debate that has continued to this day. It has often been co-opted by supporters of political movements such as eugenics to support their arguments. A school Darwin had attended, Trinity College in Cambridge, banned it from their library in 1859. Yugoslavia banned it in 1935 and Greece in 1937. It was also banned in Tennessee, America along with the teaching of the theory of evolution in 1925 as part of the Butler Law, which wasn’t lifted until 1967.

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If you’d like to know more, visit a TAFE Queensland Library in person or contact us online.

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