Banned Books That Became Classics

They created controversy when they were first published -- and some even still -- but these books are among the classics of American literature.

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Book banning is hardly a new thing -- or did you think it was just an old thing? Some of today's classics caused quite a stir when first released.
Although it was made into a movie in 1974, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" was challenged at the Baptist College in Charleston, SC, because of "language and sexual references in the book," in 1987.
Ernest Hemingway lived to see more than one of his novels banned, and even burned in Nazi bon fires. "The Sun Also Rises" was banned in Boston in 1930 and in Ireland in 1953. Italy banned "A Farewell to Arms" in 1929, as did Boston. In 1939, that novel was banned in Ireland, and faced challenges in Texas and New York as recently as the 70s and 80s. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" was also a favorite target of censors, beginning with a label of "unmailable" from the US Post Office in 1940.
Since its publication, "The Catcher in The Rye" has been a favorite target of censors, with a South Carolina school board challenging the teaching of the book as recently as 2001.
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"The Grapes of Wrath," by John Steinbeck, was burned by an East St. Louis library in 1939. That wasn't the end of protestations about the book. It continues to be a sticking point for some, with a challenge in Tennessee in 1993. Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" shares a long list of bans and challenges.
Marissa Carter
Banned as obscene in France (1956-1959), in England (1955-59), in Argentina (1959), and in New Zealand (1960), it wasn't until 1982 that the South African Directorate of Publications announced that Lolita has been taken off the banned list, eight years after a request for permission to market the novel in paperback had been refused. (Source: The American Library Association)
Marissa Carter
Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" addresses issues of racism. The 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winner was challenged in North Carolina in 2004 because the novel uses the N-word, and there were numerous bans in between. It was made into a film in 1962, starring Gregory Peck (seen here reading lines with Mary Badham, who played "Scout" Finch).
"Native Son" (1940) was challenged on numerous occasions, in part because it is "sexually graphic and violent," as parents at a High Point, NC, high school said in 1998. The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in the poverty of Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s.
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BTruman Capote's novel was banned, but later reinstated after community protests in Savannah, Ga. (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence, and profanity in the book that was a part of an Advanced Placement English Class. (Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)
Marissa Carter
This image from the HBO version of "A Separate Peace" show just how far this John Knowles novel has come since a barrage of challenges and an accusation in 1980 alleging that the book is "a filthy, trashy sex novel."
Laura Rae
In 2001, the congregation of Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, N.M., burned JRR Tolkien's "The Lord of The Rings," claiming it to be satanic. Four Oscar awards in 2001, two in 2002, and 11 in 2003 may indicate less than a quorum on that objection.
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