Monday Musings: Banned Book Week


By Kathleen Valentine

bannedSeptember 25 through October 1, 2016 is Banned Books Week, a celebration of books that were at one time considered too objectionable for the average reader. Here is a partial list of banned books and the reason for their banning according to

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884
The first ban of Mark Twain’s American classic in Concord, MA in 1885 called it “trash and suitable only for the slums.” Objections to the book have evolved, but only marginally. Twain’s book is one of the most-challenged of all time and is frequently challenged even today because of its frequent use of the word “nigger.” Otherwise it is alleged the book is “racially insensitive,” “oppressive,” and “perpetuates racism.”

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley, 1965 (Grove Press)
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book. The book presents the life story of Malcolm Little, also known as Malcolm X, who was a human rights activist and who has been called one of the most influential Americans in recent history.

Beloved, Toni Morrison, 1987
Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1970
Subtitled “An Indian History of the American West,” this book tells the history of United States growth and expansion into the West from the point of view of Native Americans. This book was banned by a school district official in Wisconsin in 1974 because the book might be polemical and they wanted to avoid controversy at all costs. “If there’s a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it,” the official stated.

The Call of the Wild, Jack London, 1903
Generally hailed as Jack London’s best work, The Call of the Wild is commonly challenged for its dark tone and bloody violence. Because it is seen as a man-and-his-dog story, it is sometimes read by adolescents and subsequently challenged for age-inappropriateness. Not only have objections been raised here, the book was banned in Italy, Yugoslavia and burned in bonfires in Nazi Germany in the late 1920s and early 30s because it was considered “too radical.”

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
A school board in Strongsville, OH refused to allow the book to be taught in high school English classrooms in 1972. It also refused to consider Cat’s Cradle as a substitute text and removed both books from the school library. The issue eventually led to a 1976 District Court ruling overturning the ban in Minarcini v. Strongsville.


Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953
Rather than ban the book about book-banning outright, Venado Middle school in Irvine, CA utilized an expurgated version of the text in which all the “hells” and “damns” were blacked out. Other complaints have said the book went against objectors religious beliefs. The book’s author, Ray Bradbury, died this year.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, 1940
Shortly after its publication the U.S. Post Office, which purpose was in part to monitor and censor distribution of media and texts, declared the book nonmailable. In the 1970s, eight Turkish booksellers were tried for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state” because they had published and distributed the text. This wasn’t Hemingway’s only banned book – A Farewell to Arms and Across the River and Into the Trees were also censored domestically and abroad in Ireland, South Africa, Germany and Italy.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic — of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939
Kern County, California has the great honor both of being the setting of Steinbeck’s novel and being the first place where it was banned (1939). Objections to profanity—especially goddamn and the like—and sexual references continued from then into the 1990s. It is a work with international banning appeal: the book was barred in Ireland in the 50s and a group of booksellers in Turkey were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
Perhaps the first great American novel that comes to the mind of the average person, this book chronicles the booze-infused and decadent lives of East Hampton socialites. It was challenged at the Baptist College in South Carolina because of the book’s language and mere references to sex.


Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, 1855
If they don’t understand you, sometimes they ban you. This was the case when the great American poem Leaves of Grass was first published and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice found the sensuality of the text disturbing. Caving to pressure, booksellers in New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania conceded to advising their patrons not to buy the “filthy” book.

Moby-Dick; or The Whale, Herman Melville,1851
In a real head-scratcher of a case, a Texas school district banned the book from its Advanced English class lists because it “conflicted with their community values” in 1996. Community values are frequently cited in discussions over challenged books by those who wish to censor them.


Our Bodies, Ourselves, Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 1971
Challenges of this book about the female anatomy and sexuality ran from the book’s publication into the mid-1980s. One Public Library lodged it “promotes homosexuality and perversion.” Not surprising in a country where some legislators want to keep others from saying the word “vagina.”


Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred C. Kinsey, 1948
How dare Alfred Kinsey ask men and women questions about their sex lives! The groundbreaking study, truly the first of its scope and kind, was banned from publication abroad and highly criticized at home.


A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams, 1947
The sexual content of this play, which later became a popular and critically acclaimed film, raised eyebrows and led to self-censorship when the film was being made. The director left a number of scenes on the cutting room floor to get an adequate rating and protect against complaints of the play’s immorality.


To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1960
Harper Lee’s great American tome stands as proof positive that the censorious impulse is alive and well in our country, even today. For some educators, the Pulitzer-prize winning book is one of the greatest texts teens can study in an American literature class. Others have called it a degrading, profane and racist work that “promotes white supremacy.”


Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963
Sendak’s work is beloved by children in the generations since its publication and has captured the collective imagination. Many parents and librarians, however, did much hand-wringing over the dark and disturbing nature of the story. They also wrung their hands over the baby’s penis drawn in In the Night Kitchen.

The Words of Cesar Chavez, Cesar Chavez, 2002
The works of Chavez were among the many books banned in the dissolution of the Mexican-American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson Unified School District disbanded the program so as to accord with a piece of legislation which outlawed Ethnic Studies classes in the state.


Thursday teaser: A Case of Sour Grapes


Woods-SourGrapesYou could WIN a FREE
e-copy of this Cass Elliot Companion Novel. See the details at the end of the excerpt.

By Gae-Lynn Woods

TO TELL THE TRUTH, even after reading the internet articles I was clueless about how to find someone. So I did what every enterprising woman does when faced with a challenge: I had a facial and massage. When at home in Fort Worth, I use a fabulous technician named Jeremy. Handsome and a honey, he’s gooey in love with his partner of the moment, Paul. But that won’t last. It never does. My relationship with Jeremy has survived at least seven partners. I big-sister him through every break up and remind him of the importance of protected sex when each new love comes along.

Funny, now that I think of it. He does the same for me.

But my options are limited when I’m in Forney County. The best salon I’ve found is on the Loop around Arcadia, a place called Holy Rollers. It’s run by a family of Pentecostal women and let me tell you, despite their own reluctance to doll up, these gals know hair and skin. Janie took one look and ordered me to strip and assume the position on the massage table.

“What’s eating you, Maxine?” she asked in a soft voice, covering me with a sheet and placing hot, smooth stones along the back of my left leg and one in each palm.

“I need to find someone, and I’m not sure how to do it.”

“Why?” She slicked oil along my right leg and worked the muscles, then gently massaged its length with a hot stone.

“He’s just somebody I need to find.”

“Nobody’s invisible these days. Start with the internet. Use a picture and do a facial recognition thing.”

“No photo.”

“What do you mean?” Janie finished working my right leg, placed hot stones along its length, and oiled the left leg. I was butter already.

“He hates having his picture taken.” I pointed at the magazine in my purse, folded open to the shot of Blue and Bret Ivey laughing. “That’s the best his wife has.”


I rose to twist and look at her, but Janie pushed me back down. “Why?” I asked.

“With all the smart phones around? Given that he runs a winery, there are bound to be pictures of him out there in cyberspace.” She hit the ticklish spot on my left thigh with a hot stone and I giggled. “Be still. Google him. See who he’s with.”

“Pretty smart,” I told her. “If that doesn’t work, all I know is where he lives and what kind of vehicle he drives. I don’t know how to find him when he’s not at home.”

Janie moved the sheet from my back to my legs and placed hot stones along my spine and on both shoulder blades. The tension in my neck melted away. “Can’t you wait until he comes home and then follow him to wherever he goes?”

“He’s not coming home, which is part of the problem. And I’d like to be proactive.”

“Then you’ll have to go wherever he goes.”

“I don’t know where he goes.”

“Well, what kind of things does he like?”

“Leather and Corvettes.”

“That’s easy,” Janie said. She removed the stones from my back and worked the muscles from my lower spine up to my shoulders. “If he stays around here, he’ll be at The Golden O over the state line.”

I lifted from the massage table and looked over my shoulder. “The biker bar? How in the world do you know about The Golden O?”

Her smile was like the Mona Lisa’s, intriguingly unreadable. “I haven’t always done hair and nails.”

“Janie Chapman. You are full of surprises. You used to strip at The Golden O, didn’t you?”

“If you won’t be still, turn over.” My prim Pentecostal masseuse lifted the sheet and I rolled to my back. “I wore a mask and had my hair pinned up until the final spin combo on the pole. I’d pull a clip out, my hair would swing free, and the dollar bills? Honey, they came a-flying.” She laid the sheet over my chest and hips and went to work on my legs. “That’s how I paid for beauty school. Don’t tell anyone. I couldn’t bear for my family to know.”

“Given everything you know about my life, your secret is safe with me.” I thought for a moment. “I always think of strip clubs as boob focused. He likes big bottoms. Do they have them at The Golden O?”

“Most of the places hire anyone who hasn’t been overcome by gravity, so you’ll find all shapes and sizes everywhere you go. But try The Bicycle Club. They used to hire women with more Rubenesque figures.”

I wiped my hands on the sheet and reached for my phone. “Give me a minute. I need to find an accomplice for tonight’s outing.”

“Unless you want lots of male attention, choose an attractive woman and pretend you’re lesbians.” That Mona Lisa smile returned. “It’ll ramp the men up, but at least they’ll believe you’re unavailable.”

I stared up at this sweet-faced woman who knew my body almost intimately, and whom I clearly knew not at all. “So how about it?” I asked. “Got any plans tonight?”

About A Case of Sour Grapes

Wine, women, and song. What could possibly go wrong? Meet Maxine Leverman, lover of expensive shoes, beautiful handbags, and her lingerie wearing ex-husband’s hush money. When she pleads her way into a job at family run Lost and Found Investigations, Maxine’s only goal is to gain the concealed carry license and PI skills she needs to find the man who attacked her, and then kill him. (Or maybe just put him in jail, that decision can wait.) But when she secretly takes a missing husband case on her first day at the agency, she stumbles into a high-stakes game of blackmail and murder. Maxine must unravel the links between a forgotten folk punk band, an international drug cartel, and the tangled history of the missing husband to keep the women in his life alive.

Fans of the early Stephanie Plum novels and Stuart Woods’ Holly Barker series will love Maxine’s tenacity, grit, and lust for life.

How to WIN

You can win a free e-copy of A Case of Sour Grapes by answering this question in the Comments section below:

What’s your strategy when you have to visit a strip club?

Don’t forget to include your contact information. The author will randomly select a winner from the entries.

About the author

Gae-Lynn Woods 2015-08Gae-Lynn Woods is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fence, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

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