Banned Books Week is September 27–October 3, and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is ready to get the party started. Authors, academics, and performers will converge on KVML to read excerpts from titles under fire and discuss censorship of art and literature. Local restaurants are competing to create the best Vonnegut-inspired entree, and the library will even play music based on books that have been banned (such as Pink Floyd’s album Animals, a nod to Animal Farm). Here are six novels that have faced fights to make it onto library shelves:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This is a perennially challenged book—remember the Family Ties episode where the Keatons fight a potential ban at Jennifer’s school? (Okay, maybe it’s just us.) Brian W. Casey, president of DePauw University, will read from it at KVML’s weeklong celebration.
Vonnegut’s 1963 novel tackles issues such as the nuclear arms race, science, and religion. In 1972, the school board in Strongsville, Ohio, banned the book without stating an official reason. Notes from the meeting include references to the book as “completely sick” and “garbage.” The ban was overturned in 1976.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The same day a production of this Jazz Age classic debuts at Indiana Repertory Theatre, September 30, Indiana State University professor Michael Sheldon will discuss it at KVML. Apparently the sex scenes in the 1925 book were too hot to handle as recently as the 1980s.
When it appeared in 1952, this novel addressing the black experience in America was by a complete unknown, but it went on to win the National Book Award. Tyrone Williams of Xavier University will read from it at KVML as part of an Arts Council program highlighting banned African-American books.
Looking for Alaska
The local author’s first young-adult novel was published in 2005 and there’s now a movie version in the works, thanks to the breakout success of his The Fault in Our Stars. The Alaska hero is often compared to Holden Caulfield, of another frequently banned book: The Catcher in the Rye.
The 1969 satirical novel detailing the experiences of Billy Pilgrim, the man who became “unstuck in time,” is generally recognized as Vonnegut’s most influential and popular book. It has also been banned in at least seven U.S. communities, according to the American Library Association.
This article appeared in The Ticket, a 2015 special publication.