Books can be dangerous or awe-inspiring, depending on who’s reading them. Perhaps those most acquainted with their power are the people who write them and the people who seek to hide them.
Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association along with many others, seeks to promote the idea that books should available to read and free from censorship. Libraries around the country hold events to promote awareness of books that have been removed from shelves or challenged by those who may be offended by a book’s contents.
Utah has had its share of books challenged and banned, just like other places, though Bingham Creek librarian Wanda Huffaker said that Utah hasn’t had a big problem.
"We don’t ban a lot of books," she said.
Huffaker, who chairs the Intellectual Freedom Committee for the Utah Library Association, noted several books that have been at the center of censorship fights in some of Utah’s libraries and stores. Sometimes the decision is made to simply take a book off the shelves, but occasionally, lawsuits, arrests and terminations result from the battle over a book.
"A Clockwork Orange" » In 1973, Orem bookseller Carole Grant was arrested and charged with violating a city ordinance due to her sale of Anthony Burgess’s magnum opus. Publisher W. W. Norton & Company planned to assist in her defense, according to a letter posted to the company’s Tumblr page. The charges were eventually dropped, but Grant lost her store due to the circumstances.
"Americana" » In 1979, Don DeLilo’s work was challenged by Morris F. Swapp, a Davis County Commissioner. Swapp wanted the book removed from the Davis County Public Library. The Commission eventually labeled the book "obscene" and in the resulting battle, library director Jeanne Layton was fired. She sued and won, returning to her post in 1981. The book remained on the shelves.
"Jaws" » In 1979, Ogden High School placed Peter Benchley’s book, which was later adapted into a successful movie, on restricted access, according to "Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds," by Dawn Sova. Students were required to have parental permission to check out the book.
"Raisin in the Sun" » Also in 1979, Ogden School District restricted access to the well-known play by Lorraine Hansberry, apparently as a result of complaints from an anti-pornography organization.
"Grendel" » In 1991, a parent in Davis County challenged a book used in Viewmont High Schools English classes, a retelling of Beowulf through the eyes of the monster Grendel written by John Gardner. According to Huffaker, the challenge was eventually overturned.
"A Day No Pigs Would Die" » In 1994, parents of children at Payson Middle School objected to the novel about pig farmers and a town slaughterer. According to Sova, the parents considered depictions of animal breeding, a grave exhumation and the language of the book objectionable.
"In Our Mother’s House" » In a widely publicized 2012 case, parents in Davis County were concerned that the children’s book by Patricia Polacco promoted homosexuality. The book was removed from the district’s elementary school libraries’ shelves. A suit from the American Civil Liberties Union followed, leading the district to settle the case in February of 2013. The book is available at the district’s libraries again.
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