About Kathleen Valentine

From the Allegheny Mountains where she grew up, to the Gloucester seaport where she wrotes, Kathleen Valentine loved nothing more than listening to the stories that people tell while sitting on front porches, gathered around kitchen tables, or swapped in coffee shops and taverns. Her collection of legends, folklore, and tall tales were woven into her fiction. The award-winning author of novels, novellas, & short story collections, as well as books of knitting patterns, & a cookbook/memoir about growing up Pennsylvania Dutch, Valentine has been listed as an Amazon Top Selling Author in Horror, Mystery/Suspense, Cooking, and Knitting. As a writer her primary interest was delving into the psychology of her characters. Her stories were sometimes mysterious, sometimes funny, usually romantic, and frequently frightening. Her characters ranged from lost children and grumpy old folks, to mysterious men and women who are not to be trifled with. On October 29, 2016, Kathleen passed away in her home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, America's oldest seaport.

Tribute Thursday: Kathleen Valentine

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This week, we are again paying tribute to Kathleen Valentine, who passed away on October 29, by reprising an excerpt from one of her best-loved books, The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed, Volume 3 in Kathleen Valentine’s Beacon Hill Chronicles.

In an effort to rid the Thorndike townhouse of spirits, Vivienne Lang, accompanied by Joe and Tom Quinn, go in search of an exorcist they’ve heard about.

“I think we’re almost there,” Tom said. “Brother Gregory said it was just past the old fort.” He pointed. “There. I think that’s it.”

At the top of a hill overlooking Boston Harbor, a weather-beaten salt-box style house next to a long greenhouse sat surrounded by vast, tidy gardens.

“It’s beautiful,” Viv said as she got out of the car and stretched. “What a view!”

“No kidding, huh?” Joe got out, shaded his eyes with his hands, and pointed. “That’s Boston Lighthouse right in front of us but see that light farther out?”

“Yes.” Viv followed suit, shading her eyes. “Where is that?”

“That’s called The Graves Light. It’s nine miles out from Boston.” He turned and pointed in the opposite direction. “See that?” He pointed toward a flicker in the loom above the water.

“Another lighthouse?”

“Yeah. That’s Minot’s Ledge. I bet on a really clear day you can see all the way to Provincetown.”

“I’m going to go knock.” Tom and Joe turned back to the house but Viv, enthralled by the view, wandered down the driveway, both hands shading her eyes.

“You must be the brothers Quinn.” The screen door opened and a stocky man in baggy jeans and a dirt-stained sweatshirt crossed the porch. Except for the tonsure on his head he looked like any other middle-aged man. He held out his hand. “I’m Brother Gregory Aston. Welcome.”

“Hi, I’m Tom Quinn. And this is my brother Joe.” Tom glanced backward. “What happened to Viv?”

“She’s still wrapped up in the view. What a place you have here,” Joe said to Brother Gregory.

“Who’s Viv?” Brother Gregory asked.

“Joe’s fiancee,” Tom said. “She’s the one who needs to talk to Brother Maksim.”

“Oh dear.” Brother Gregory frowned. “Bringing her here without warning might not have been a good idea. Brother Maksim is a difficult person under the best of circumstances but he’s got a lot of problems with women.”

“Oh shit, is that him?” Joe turned and, as they watched, an enormous man rose up from one of the gardens.

“Yes.” Brother Gregory cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered, “Brother Maksim!”

The giant strode toward Viv.

“Crap. Viv’s not a good person for men with issues about women to be around.” Joe broke into a run.

Brother Maksim either did not hear his name being called or chose to ignore it. He reached out as he neared Viv and grabbed her arm. In a flash, she turned, slammed her heel into the back of his knee and brought her elbow down in the middle of his back, sending him sprawling, face down in the grass.

“What the hell..?” Tom stopped dead in his tracks as Joe grabbed Viv and pulled her into his arms.
Brother Gregory glanced at her, a look of total bafflement on his face. He dropped to his knees next to the fallen man.
“Brother Maksim? Are you all right?”

The huge body began to shudder and shake.

“Brother Maksim?” Brother Gregory put his hands on the massive shoulders and tugged. Brother Maksim rolled effortlessly onto his back and lay in the grass laughing hysterically.

“What just happened?” Tom asked stopping beside Joe.

“Viv doesn’t like surprises,” Joe said, grinning. “That’s my baby.”

“I’m so sorry,” Viv said. “He scared me.”

“And you taught him a lesson about scaring women,” Joe said.
Brother Maksim pushed himself to his feet, still laughing. “I like her,” he boomed.

“I’m so sorry.” Viv disentangled herself from Joe’s arms and turned to face Brother Maksim. “You shouldn’t have grabbed me like that.”

Brother Maksim put his hands on his hips and grinned down at her. He stood at least half a foot taller than Joe—who was taller than everyone else in their group—and was half-again as wide. His wild, thick hair, except for where it was tonsured, was a mix of black and gray, and he wore an equally gray beard. The left side of his face was a mass of long-healed scars but, judging by the right side, he must have been a handsome man at one time.

“Come.” He gestured toward the house. “We’ll have tea. I want to get to know this woman.”

About The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed

Beacon Hill Chronicles: Volume 3: Two years have passed since the horrible events in the Thorndike brownstone on Beacon Hill. Viv and Joe are recovering. Mattie and Stan have Adam, the little son they both adore.

But strange things are going on in GrammyLou’s townhouse; realtors refuse to show it because they say it is haunted and prospective buyers are being frightened away. Mattie hires a Salem ghost-hunter named Destiny Starlight, but though she identifies three distinct spirits haunting the old ballroom, her bungling only makes matters worse.

With the help of Calista Defarge and Anteus Roosevelt Jones, an elderly historian, Viv discovers an ancient secret the house conceals. Guided by a mysterious Romanian monk, Brother Maksim Gromyko, Viv makes a terrifying journey that could end her relationship with Joe—and possibly her life.

About the author

Kathleen Valentine - authorKathleen Valentine was the author of four novels including the award-winning The Whiskey Bottle in The Wall: Secrets of Marienstadt; the Amazon Best Seller in Psychological Horror, The Crazy Old Lady in the Attic; its sequels The Crazy Old Lady’s Revenge and The Crazy Old Lady Unleashed; as well as numerous short stories and novellas.

She passed away in her home in Gloucester, Maine in October.

Visit her

 

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Monday Musings: The challenges of writing historical prose

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by Scott Bury

It’s just one word out of a hundred thousand, but it can stop a writer. Sometimes, the search for one right word can take longer than writing a hundred pages.

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That happens to me a lot when writing books based on history, whether it’s my historical fantasy, The Bones of the Earth, or my World War II trilogy, Walking Out of War.

If you get a historical fact wrong, the readers will let you know.

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The facts are essential

The challenge for the writer is to make every story immediate — to put the reader today into the story, even when it takes place a half-century or a millennium ago. The key to making the story real to the readers is the little details.

These can seem inconsequential — like what kind of side-arms Soviet army officers carried, or who the Eastern Roman Emperor was in 593 CE. But when you get to that point, you realize you have no idea what you’re writing about.

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A good example came up when I was writing Army of Worn Soles, the story of my father-in-law Maurice Bury. A Canadian citizen, he got drafted by the Soviet Red Army just before Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the largest land invasion in history.

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Maurice told me a lot about his experiences in the war so that I could write his story as a book. I wrote a draft that had a lot of the facts and the whole sweeping epic, but he passed away before I could finish it. That left a lot of details wanting.

Like what the Red Army’s anti-tank gun looked like in 1941.

It took a long time to work out. Google and Wikipedia to the rescue! But it wasn’t that simple.

Try Googling “Red Army anti-tank gun 1941” and you’ll get conflicting information of various levels of reliability. The Soviets used more than one type of anti-tank gun. Which one did Maurice command? Finding that out required going deeper than Wikipedia, and careful reading of the notes I took when Maurice was alive.

There’s nothing like hard copy

My current work-in-progress is the third volume of Maurice’s story, Walking Out of War. I got stuck in the postwar period. After Maurice fought in the Battle of Berlin, he left the Red Army to return home to Montreal. He told me how he walked from Berlin to Munich, found a D.P. camp in Ingolstadt, Germany, and then in Landeck, Austria. Finally, he met other Ukrainian people in Vienna who helped him get the necessary permits to return to Canada. But when exactly did all this happen? What did he do to survive in the interim?

Then I found some of the most interesting items I have ever seen in my life. In Maurice’s papers, pushed to the back of a desk drawer, was an old, tattered wallet with his ID papers — some as a schoolboy in Poland. There were two D.P. identification cards, a letter from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration Displaced Persons Centre Kufstein, another authorizing Maurice to travel to Vienna to arrange his transfer to Canada, and more.

The most interesting were the travel permits authorizing Maurice to go from the Landeck D.P. camp to Vienna, and another from Austria to Canada. What’s most interesting is that they’re dated in early 1947 — nearly two years after the end of the fighting in Europe.

So what did Maurice do for those two years?

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Another mystery to solve.

Walking Out of War, the third part of the trilogy, is nearly complete and will be published by the Written Word Communications Co. and Independent Authors International by the end of 2016.

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Monday Musings: Tribute to Bob Dylan

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by Kathleen Valentine

friedman-dylan-nobelThis week we learned that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his song lyrics. There is nothing I could write that would be a tenth as meaningful as his words so here are the lyrics to one of the songs that won him the Nobel.

Desolation Row
Bob Dylan

They’re selling postcards of the hanging, they’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors, the circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner, they’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker, the other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless, they need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight, from Desolation Row
Cinderella, she seems so easy, “It takes one to know one, ” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning. “You Belong to Me I Believe”
And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place, my friend, you’d better leave”
And the only sound that’s left after the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up on Desolation Row
Now the moon is almost hidden, the stars are beginning to hide
The fortune telling lady has even taken all her things inside
All except for Cain and Abel and the hunchback of Notre Dame
Everybody is making love or else expecting rain
And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing, he’s getting ready for the show
He’s going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row
Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window for her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday she already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic she wears an iron vest
Her profession’s her religion, her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon Noah’s great rainbow
She spends her time peeking into Desolation Row
Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood with his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago with his friend, a jealous monk
Now he looked so immaculately frightful as he bummed a cigarette
And he when off sniffing drainpipes and reciting the alphabet
You would not think to look at him, but he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin on Desolation Row
Dr. Filth, he keeps his world inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients, they’re trying to blow it up
Now his nurse, some local loser, she’s in charge of the cyanide hole
And she also keeps the cards that read, “Have Mercy on His Soul”
They all play on the penny whistles, you can hear them blow
If you lean your head out far enough from Desolation Row
Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains, they’re getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera in a perfect image of a priest
They are spoon feeding Casanova to get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence after poisoning him with words
And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls, “Get outta here if you don’t know”
Casanova is just being punished for going to Desolation Row”
At midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone that knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders and then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles by insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping to Desolation Row
Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting, “Which side are you on?!”
And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row
Yes, I received your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke
When you asked me how I was doing, was that some kind of joke
All these people that you mention, yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces and give them all another name
Right now, I can’t read too good, don’t send me no more letters no
Not unless you mail them from Desolation Row

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Monday Musings: Squirming in the Gap

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by Kathleen Valentine

branFor well over a year now I have been working on a story designed to be the third entry in my Halcyon Beach Chronicles series. This series is different from anything else I write because it has no primary characters who appear in each book. There are a few secondary characters that appear in each story but the main characters change—mostly because something horrible happens to them thanks to the ghosts that haunt this town.

For some reason that I do not understand this story, though longer than the first two but not as long as most of my writing, has been hard to get through. It was one of those strange instances where I knew what the story was but trying to figure out how to tell it was daunting me. Basically, the plot is this: a young and successful female journalist, while staying in a town where she is writing an article for the magazine she works for, meets a man who tells her about Halcyon Beach and bout the many peculiar and mysterious things that go on there. Out of curiosity she decides to drive there and spend a couple days snooping around to see what she can find. As luck would have it, she finds several leads worth following but within a couple days, strange things start happening to her, too.

Anyway, after a year of writing and rewriting and rewriting some more, I forced myself to focus on this because I want to have it ready by Halloween. It is a ghost story after all. After numerous trials and errors, I decided that my problem was that there were two story lines and they were at odds with each other. There was the story of an old man and the ghost that was haunting him, and there was the story of the journalist and what was happening to her. Finally, I came up with a solution and, once I resolved how I wanted to deal with the two different stories, the writing went well. This past week I sent the manuscript out to my four favorite first readers and one has already written back with lots of compliments. Now to await the other three.

I call this The Gap—the space between sending the manuscript out and waiting for the feedback—and it is never a comfortable place for me to be. For one thing, no matter how meticulously I edit before sending, the very minute I hit SEND, I see a glaring mistake. It ALWAYS happens. Ad then, because I love torturing myself, I read the manuscript and the whole thing suddenly seems entirely stupid and who-do-you-think-you-are-anyway? Trying to be a writer… Good grief.

In George R.R, Martin’s Game of Thrones books there is a line I particularly love. Young Bran is talking to his father and he says, “Can a man still be brave even if he is afraid?” His father responds, “That’s the only time a man can be brave.” I think that is important to remember when we are going through periods of doubt.

So it will be a few more days until I get more reports but I am barreling ahead trying to get everything ready for this release. I’ve been through this so many times before you’d think I’d be used to it by now but, as always, I’m a nervous wreck. I want to create something people will love. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading.

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Monday Musings: Observations from Stephen King

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I have a terrible cold and am quite miserable so, since we just finished Banned Book Week, I thought you might enjoy this 1992 essay by Stephen King:

The Book-Banners: Adventure in Censorship is Stranger Than Fiction
Published as a Guest Column in the March 20, 1992 issue of The Bangor Daily News

stephen_king_cartoon“When I came into my office last Thursday afternoon, my desk was covered with those little pink message slips that are the prime mode of communication around my place. Maine Public Broadcasting had called, also Channel 2, the Associated Press, and even the Boston Globe. It seems the book-banners had been at it again, this time in Florida. They had pulled two of my books, “The Dead Zone” and “The Tommyknockers,” from the middle-school library shelves and were considering making them limited-access items in the high school library. What that means is that you can take the book out if you bring a note from your mom or your dad saying it’s OK.

My news-media callers all wanted the same thing — a comment. Since this was not the first time one or more of my books had been banned in a public school (nor the 15th), I simply gathered the pink slips up, tossed them in the wastebasket, and went about my day’s work. The only thought that crossed my mind was one strongly tinged with gratitude: There are places in the world where the powers that be ban the author as well as the author’s works when the subject matter or mode of expression displeases said powers. Look at Salman Rushdie, now living under a death sentence, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight years in a prison camp for calling Josef Stalin “the boss” and had to run for the west to avoid another stay after he won the Nobel Prize for “The Gulag Archipelago.”

When the news stories about my latest adventure in censorship came out, however, I didn’t like the way that “the author could not be reached for comment” stuff looked. To me, that line has always called up images of swindlers too cowardly to face up to what they’ve done. In this case I haven’t done anything but my job, and I know it’s all too possible to make a career out of defending one’s fiction — for a while in the mid-1980s, Judy Blume almostdidmake a career out of it — but I still didn’t like the way it felt.

So, just for the record, here is what I’d say if I still took time out from doing my work to defend it.

First, to the kids: There are people in your home town who have taken certain books off the shelves of your school library. Do not argue with them; do not protest; do not organize or attend rallies to have the books put back on their shelves. Don’t waste your time or your energy. Instead, hustle down to your public library, where these frightened people’s reach must fall short in a democracy, or to your local bookstore, and get a copy of what has been banned. Read it carefully and discover what it is your elders don’t want you to know. In many cases you’ll finish the banned book in question wondering what all the fuss was about. In others, however, you will find vital information about the human condition. It doesn’t hurt to remember that John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, and even Mark Twain have been banned in this country’s public schools over the last 20 years.

Second, to the parents in these towns: There are people out there who are deciding what your kids can read, and they don’t care what you think because they are positive their ideas of what’s proper and what’s not are better, clearer than your own. Do you believe they are? Think carefully before you decide to accord the book-banners this right of cancellation, and remember that they don’t believe in democracy but rather in a kind of intellectual autocracy. If they are left to their own devices, a great deal of good literature may soon disappear from the shelves of school libraries simply because good books — books that make us think and feel — always generate controversy.

If you are not careful and diligent about defending the right of your children to read, there won’t be much left, especially at the junior-high level where kids really begin to develop a lively life of the mind, but books about heroic boys who come off the bench to hit home runs in the bottom of the ninth and shy girls with good personalities who finally get that big prom date with the boy of their dreams. Is this what you want for your kids, keeping in mind that controversy and surprise — sometimes even shock — are often the whetstone on which young minds are sharpened?

Third, to the other interested citizens of these towns: Please remember that book-banning is censorship, and that censorship in a free society is always a serious matter — even when it happens in a junior high, it is serious. A proposal to ban a book should always be given the gravest consideration. Book-banners, after all, insist that the entire community should see things their way, and only their way. When a book is banned, a whole set of thoughts is locked behind the assertion that there is only one valid set of values, one valid set of beliefs, one valid perception of the world. It’s a scary idea, especially in a society which has been built on the ideas of free choice and free thought.

Do I think that all books and all ideas should be allowed in school libraries? I do not. Schools are, after all, a “managed” marketplace. Books like “Fanny Hill” and Brett Easton Ellis’ gruesome “American Psycho” have a right to be read by people who want to read them, but they don’t belong in the libraries of tax-supported American middle schools. Do I think that I have an obligation to fly down to Florida and argue thatmybooks, which are a long way from either “Fanny Hill” or “American Psycho,” be replaced on the shelves from which they have been taken? No. My job is writing stories, and if I spent all my time defending the ones I’ve written already, I’d have no time to write new ones.

Do I believe a defense should be mounted? Yes. If there’s one American belief I hold above all others, it’s that those who would set themselves up in judgment on matters of what is “right” and what is “best” should be given no rest; that they should have to defend their behavior most stringently. No book, record, or film should be banned without a full airing of the issues. As a nation, we’ve been through too many fights to preserve our rights of free thought to let them go just because some prude with a highlighter doesn’t approve of them.”

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Monday Musings: Banned Book Week

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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 BannedBookWeek.org:

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.

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