ACLU’s Banned Books Beach Reads

Summer’s in full-swing and what could be better beach reading than a bag full of banned books! Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, recently put together a list of her controversial favorites that prove not only to be great reads, but also bring awareness of freedom of expression and the larger issues of its attempted suppression which has been on the increase in the past few years.

Rose’s list includes some of the usual suspects: historical fiction like The Kite Runner, which has repeatedly been challenged for violence and sexual content, or teen coming-of-age stories like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which was removed from a Connecticut school curriculum for “mature” content. But unlike most beach reading lists, she also included comics! From Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ award-winning sci-fi graphic novel series Saga, which has been challenged for sexual content, to Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic memoir Persepolis, which has been the target of numerous challenges for language and violence — some of the most critically acclaimed books and graphic novels coming out have also become some of the most challenged according to the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books.

“I’ve always had a penchant for banned books,” says Rose. “It started when my father designated one shelf in our house the “dirty book shelf” and warned us children to “stay away” from those books. Of course, we immediately sneaked the books—only to realize later that Dad had stocked the shelf with classics. Stealthily, I’d start reading in anticipation of finding the racy bits, only to become absorbed in The Three Musketeers, Don Quixote and Anna Karenina.”

It’s not just graphic novels and more teen/adult oriented books that bring controversy, though. In the past year we have seen a rise in children’s picture books also becoming targets. Perfect titles to add to your bag to have for the young ones would be And Tango Makes Three and King & King—both kids’ books that saw controversy for their depiction of same sex couples and what censors called “anti-family values.”

Whatever your tastes, as Rose points out, a banned book list is a great place to start compiling your beach reading list! You can view her list here.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!