Kids explain how banned and challenged books helped them and even saved their lives

Originally published at:

Banned Books Week has come and gone but we can be sure of one thing: the coming year will be marked by challenges to the same kinds of books that were controversial this year, and in years past.


Many books written for adolescents allow the reader to watch a character coming to consciousness of who they are in the world and the opportunities and barriers they will encounter. Rather than imitating destructive behavior of fictional characters, young people understand that these stories are cautionary tales, showing the consequences that flow from decisions people make—both good and bad.

As a young adult, it often struck me that so much of the available literature was enormously ponderous stuff about young people battling abuse, depression, drugs, abandonment, bullying, and other such pleasant topics. It would of course be profoundly silly to say that these books should be banned, and goodness knows I was fortunate to largely escape such things myself, but lighter fare seemed to be in very short supply. Thank goodness for Gordon Korman.


As a kid, “We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” and “The Wave” were required reading - great books, but so horribly depressing. Pratchett, and, later on, Rowling, were a very welcome change of pace.


I had only the second of your examples covered in school, though “Alan and Naomi” by Myron Levoy (titled here “The Yellow Bird”, for some reasons only a German WP article exists) was a compulsory read and left a deep impression

Huh, never heard of that somehow. Must have been out of fashion in my time. Gonna get it as an ebook now, though.

And as long as we’re talking about required German reading, “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead” was another great book that left you horribly depressed.


I read this in class 9 or 10, so around mid-90s. in BW, the curriculum is astonishing different between the states[quote=“Konservenknilch, post:5, topic:88781”]
“The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or: how violence develops and where it can lead”

yes, well written and an important message - a book I would have never read if it wasn’t for school

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BW, as in Baden-Württemberg? Funny, my Dad comes from over there. Yeah, education plans can be wildly different.


it’s not THAT particular, 1 of 8 Germans are from BW ; )


He fled from there to escape the Bundeswehr, when the draft still existed. And as a non-national in Austria, he couldn’t be drafted over here :wink:


the traditional way to circumvent military service was moving to Berlin, fleeing to a weird and exotic culture seems like a very extreme action : P

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Dad went to the DDR for a short time, but it wasn’t sustainable somehow. Also, Vienna was just a much nicer place to live. He did have to redo his drivers license though.

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interesting, and maybe the reason why he thought West Berlin wasn’t the best idea only to avoid playing soldier

Make a point of thanking every adult and peer who was in your life when you were a child, then. You are indeed very, very fortunate.


As one of the “Donauschwaben”, whose family went “heim ins Reich” from Serbia during WW2, Austria probably also felt more like home. I guess the “Saupreussen” felt more foreign.


Ironically(?^), that’s how I feel about BoingBoing. Not the blog, exactly, but definitely the posters and their comments. It’s forced me to examine my biases, sharpen my arguments/thoughts, and helped my empathise in lots of different areas.

^ is ironic the right word in this context? Fuck you, Morissette for confusing an already confusing word


At school we “did” World War One Poets and Great English Short Stories, Lord if the Flies, and all the rest of that stuff designed to kill a young reader’s interest in literature. Fortunately Dad got us kids in to sci-fi, fantasy and reading for fun.

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I think you mean the exact opposite. Irony is saying the opposite of what you mean in such a way that your more educated hearers get it, Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar being the classical English example, though there are excellent ones in Euripides.
I think you actually mean “similarly”. And I agree. I don’t know quite how but with all the madness around BB seems to remain a sane oasis (and, if you are an IT person, The Register, but the sense of humour there is extremely British.).


I couldn’t make it through the comments from readers without my see holes springing a million leaks.

One of the books I read in my youth was ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’. Although Ayla is an absolute super person, I thought it did a good job of exploring the world of being different. I wonder if it’s banned. There are a couple of risque subjects covered.

Google tells me it’s had it’s share of being banned: Jean M. Auel’s books challenged for its depiction of sexual practices.


There must have been someone who was the first to ride a horse, huh. Great book.

Along with the Hugo and Nebula awards, ban lists are my go-to book recommendation. If we don’t ban certain books, how will kids know to read them?

EDIT: Seriously, ban lists are worth checking out. People don’t ban books that no one wants to read.