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10.03.2015


Shelfie: Triggers and Banned Books
EDMUND SANDOVAL




They say a strange, new phenomenon is sweeping through the lecture halls of universities and colleges across the nation. They say that students these days are asking to be warned of subject material and books that might offend, that might make them feel uncomfortable, that might confuse because of the ideas within. Trigger warnings and microaggressions have entered the cultural domain. Insulation from the danger of words is the name of the game. This is strange territory. As Greg Lukianoff wrote recently in The Atlantic, a sort of tidal wave of “vindictive protectiveness” is on the rise, its hope to create “‘safe spaces’ where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable.”

If this is so, then we are all surely doomed. If these kids, whose onus is to learn how to think, are pulling the plug on a book before it’s even been opened simply because of what they’ve heard it’s about, then the folks who have been busy all these years getting books pulled from primary and secondary curricula may as well sit back in their La-Z-Boys and toast their good hard work.

Whether this burgeoning wave swells or ebbs and goes back out to sea, the wannabe book burners are probably here to stay, no matter what, ready to rake some poor, unsuspecting book over the coals because it is about child wizards or foul-mouthed prep school expelees or Orfreds or whomever or whatever. Perhaps it’s best if everyone, those young adults sticking still to the shallow end of the pool, those grownups who believe that stories will twist and pervert our kids, and you and I, would simply heed the words of the inimitable George Saunders: “Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” Amen.

The following list represents the top 100 banned or challenged books between 2000 and 2009, as compiled by the American Library Association. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group; a banning is the removal of those materials. Your challenge is to read them all, to try to remain permanently confused, to stay so open it hurts. To learn something new.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J. K. Rowling
2. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
20. King & King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellesiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life Is Funny, by E. R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard and Harold Hutchins
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sánchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me a Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis J. Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body?, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far from the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H. G. Bissinger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R. L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E. R. Frank





EDMUND SANDOVAL lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The Minnesota Review, The Common, Fourteen Hills, and The Mud Season Review, among others. He earned his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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