Banned Books Week 2013!

It’s time once again to call attention to censorship and the banning of books by celebrating Banned Books Week!

From the BBW website:

Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 464 in 2012.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.

Explore these pages for more information:

More information on banned/challenged books can be found on the American Library Assocation’s frequently challenged books pages.

Here at Going Public, we’ve got a lovely playlist of works selected from books that have been challenged or banned at some point, in some place in the world. Also happy to welcome several new contributors to our weekly fun. Enjoy!

And we’ll have two additional pieces later today, so be sure to check back for snippets of Call of the Wild and Gulliver’s Travels!


Little Red-Cap, collected by The Brothers Grimm

Read by Xe Sands

Xe  writes…

I know, I know…’Where is the CHATTERLEY?’ you ask. *sigh* I have such a love/hate relationship with David Herbert. Sadly, when I went to record a snippet of this very frequently challenged and banned book, I was so irritated with Lawrence’s underlying messages (as I perceived them in the moment) that I just couldn’t do it without a lot of hate making it into the recording. And as that would not have been “honoring the author’s intent,” it seemed best to move on for BBW this year.

BUT! But then, I stumbled upon a story banned for such a ridiculous reason – a story no one would ever suspect had been banned – and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, Little Red-Cap, (which would eventually become Little Red Riding Hood). And was it banned because of the often-discussed undertones of sexual awakening (although I certainly didn’t read it that way when I was five…)? No. It was banned because Red is taking wine to her grandmother, and the presence of alcohol in the story was deemed offensive.


I’ve chosen a translation that is perhaps a bit dated in language, but supposedly remains a bit truer to Grimm’s original version.



Song of Myself (excerpt) , by Walt Whitman

Read by Diane Havens

Diane writes…

Banned at its first publication in 1855 for being too sensual, obscene, and homoerotic, Walt Whitman’s collection of poems “Leaves of Grass” even caused him to lose his job with the Department of the Interior. The most “offensive” poem, an epic work of genius, one of the greatest works in American literature “Song of Myself” is life affirming, death joyfully accepting as a natural conclusion feeding the grass for generations to come, all beauty, celebrating both body and soul. I have recorded here the first 4 parts of the 52 — which goes on to end with these lines:

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.


Anna Akhmatova  – Selection of Poems

Read by Sonia Vilim

Sonia writes…

Selection of poems by Anna Akhmatova banned by a party resolution of 1925 which she termed her “The Vegetarian Years” being accused of representing an introspective bourgeois aesthetics reflecting only trivial “female” preoccupations not complying with the new revolutionary politics of that time.

* Image: Private archive of Sonia Vilim


The Monk (excerpt), by Matthew Lewis

Read by Mark Turetsky

Mark  writes…

Matthew Lewis wrote The Monk before he turned 20 and published it anonymously. In this gothic horror novel, a 17th-Century monk named Ambrosio is lured into sin and and corruption, with the ever-present backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition just offstage. Ambrosio seduces, kills, consorts with the devil, the whole she-bang.

The book was banned almost immediately upon publication, for pretty obvious reasons. Unlike many banned books, this is not a deeply subversive political work, or a biting satire. This is pure exploitation, and it’s awesome.

Lewis removed what he believed were the offending passages and published a second edition, this time using his full name, as well as his title of Member of Parliament (an honor he received when he was only 21). He also got a glowing review from the Marquis de Sade.

This scene is from late in the book. Ambrosio’s crimes have been discovered, and he’s been sentenced to death. He begins this passage in his cell, the night before he’s to be executed for his crimes. And, well, you’ll hear what happens.



Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll

Read by Marti Dumas

Marti  writes…

The world is full of nonsense, but one of the most beautiful things about the human mind is its power to make meaning. That is why I (and my children by extension) have always been so drawn to “Jabberwocky,” a poem that appears in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. I love that even with so much nonsense, the meaning is right there on the surface ready to be grasped by any who would listen. Apparently my children and I are not alone in perceiving its nonsensical meaning, although for some that nonsense has made it “dangerous.” According to Dangerous BooksThrough the Looking Glass has been criticized and critiqued throughout the ages despite its widespread popularity among children and adults. There are three main arguments circulating about the flaws of the book. One major problem that many libraries and esteemed authors had with the novel is that it is “too strange and full of nonsense.” Even famous fantasy writers such as Terry Pratchett and L Frank Baum both have openly stated that they disliked the book. Baum says that his books were “fantasy with purpose” while Alice stories were just nonsense. The second major criticism that was responsible for widespread challenges and several bannings across the United States is the association with drug highs. In society Alice in Wonderland has been associated with acid and LSD trips. In fact artwork from the book (and in more recent years the Disney cartoon production) have been printed on the acid papers. Because of this association many schools have construed the book as having drug references and a promotion of using the drug by showing a somewhat “pleasurable” experience as the outcome. For specific examples, in a small town in New Hampshire it was challenged in 1980 for references to drug trips, and they said that it was inappropriate because it was suggestive to students to experiment. In a similar case in the early 1900s it was suspended from the classroom use at Woodsville High School in Haverhill, NH because it contains “expletives, references to masturbation and sexual fantasies, and derogatory characterizations of teachers and of religious ceremonies.” Surely these things are dangerous, indeed. Dangerous enough to savor for Banned Book Week.



Family Limitation, by Margaret H. Sanger

Read by Karen Commins

Karen writes…

In celebration of Banned Book Week 2013, audiobook narrator Karen Commins reads Margaret H. Sanger’s FAMILY LIMITATION pamphlet, 1917 edition.

The Comstock Act of 1873 (the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act) banned the mailing of material considered to be “lewd”. “indecent”, “filthy”, or “obscene”. It also forbade distribution of birth control information.

Margaret Sanger’s husband was jailed for distributing this pamphlet which describes and advocates various methods of contraception. Sanger fled the country to avoid prosecution. When she returned, she started the American Birth Control League, which merged with other groups to become Planned Parenthood.

In 2012, the Library of Congress included this pamphlet in its exhibit of Books that Shaped America. This exhibit featured 88 works that shaped American life and thought.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5, by Lewis Carroll

Read by Sasha St. James

Sasha  writes…

The caterpillar is by far my favorite character in this beloved, yet at times controversial, story. Alice first meets him in Chapter 5. For Banned Books Week, I chose to record the first part of this chapter.

Call of the Wild (excerpt) , by Jack London

Read by Paul Constanzo



Gulliver’s Travels (excerpt)by Jonathan Swift

Read by Scott O’Neill


…and as always, the continuing saga of Tom Jones!

Tom Jones – Book 6, Chapter 4, by Henry Fielding

Read by Mark Turetsky

Mark  writes…

Book 6 Chapter 4 of Tom Jones.

This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones over the course of four years.

Let’s face it: this chapter isn’t very rich in incident. Squire Allworthy takes Western’s proposal of marriage to young Blifil. Blifil carefully considers a few factors (namely, how much money he stands to make) and prudently accepts. Word gets back to Western, who then asks his sister to tell Sophia. Now, in this long train of information, what could possibly go wrong?

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