Fahrenheit 451, the classic dystopian novel that famously challenged censorship and intellectual suppression, was published in 1953 by Ray Bradbury. In the story, books are deemed a danger to society, and a task force of “firemen” is sent out by the government to burn books on sight. The ironic part is that Bradbury’s book was eventually banned; apparently, the fact that a Bible is burned in the story didn’t sit well with some folks.
On May 19, HBO will release its awaited film adaption, which stars Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, duh) and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water). As we gear up for the premiere, here are a few other books that have been banned.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary (2010)
We know what you’re thinking: The dictionary was banned? As it turns out, the Merriam Webster Dictionary was in fact banned from some United States schools over a parent’s complaint about its definition of “oral sex.” According to The Guardian, “the oral stimulation of genitals” was too “sexually graphic” for some parents in California’s Menifee Union school district, sparking concern that the resource textbook was “just not age appropriate.” So it was pulled from classrooms while the district combed through its pages for additional “graphic” content. That’s a whole lotta words to read, bruh.
BUCK by MK Asante (2017)
In November, MK Asante’s riveting memoir was removed from Baltimore City School classrooms for “inappropriate” content. Meanwhile, Asante has been teaching BUCK in Baltimore City since 2013. “I’ve been in over 25 high schools in Baltimore, doing workshops with students, all types of stuff,” he told CASSIUS shortly after the incident. “I’ve been in juvenile centers, all throughout the Baltimore City public school system, having some of the most important conversations I’ve ever had, like really transformative stuff. We’ve been doing this for years.” The school district later denied that the book was ever banned and stated that it just wasn’t a part of the “approved” curriculum. Semantics. 🙄🙄🙄
Beloved by Toni Morrison (2016)
Morrison’s Beloved may have been published way back in 1987, but that didn’t stop a parent from complaining about her son being required to read it in 2012. According to The Guardian, Republican senator Richard H. Black called it “smut,” motivating state legislators to pass the “Beloved Bill” so parents could opt their kids out of “sexually explicit” school reading. The bill was vetoed by governor Terry McAuliffe in 2016, but not before it “threatened to undermine school boards’ power to make curricular decisions and protect students’ right to receive information.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
Around the same time BUCK was in the hot seat, Angie Thomas’ debut novel—which became a New York Times number one bestseller and earned a National Book Award Longlist nomination (did we also mention that it’s being made into a feature film starring Amandla Stenberg?)—was banned by a school district in Texas. Basically, some disgruntled parent was “very appalled” by the book’s explicit language and discussion of drug use, sparking Katy Independent School District superintendent Lance Hindt to pull the book from shelves across the whole district while a “review” took place. The ban added to heightening concerns surrounding student access to literature, particularly titles that allow them to see themselves on book pages and validate their realities.