Quotes from 16 Famous Authors about Their Banned Books
Quotes from Authors about Their Banned Books
Happy Banned Books Week! To celebrate the many legendary authors who have experienced censorship at one point or another in their careers, we've rounded up our favorite 16 quotes, some witty and others angry, all about the vitality of free speech and ideas in literature.
“I’m always sorry that people ban my books. Many times I’ve been called the most banned. Many times my books are banned by people who never read two sentences.”
"When I started, in the '70s, it was a good time for children's book writers. Children's reading was much freer than in the '80s when censorship started; when we elected Ronald Reagan and the conservatives decided that they would decide not just what their children would read but what all children would read, it went crazy. My feeling in the beginning was, wait, this is America: we don't have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don't do this, we don't ban books. But then they did … [Sometimes] kids will actually go to mom or dad and say, 'What does this mean?', which is the perfect time to talk to them about it. But that's when sometimes parents get hysterical. Really. It's like, 'Argh, I don't want to talk to you about this, let's get rid of this book, I don't ever want to talk to you about this, I don't ever want you to go through puberty.'"
After learning Ballantine censored 75 sections of Fahrenheit 451: “It is a mad world and it will get madder if we allow the minorities, be they dwarf or giant, orangutan or dolphin, nuclear-head or water-conversationalist, pro-computerologist or Neo-Luddite, simpleton or sage, to interfere with aesthetics. The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights and my territorial imperatives begin, run, and rule. If Mormons do not like my plays, let them write their own. If the Irish hate my Dublin stories, let them rent typewriters. If teachers and grammar school editors find my jawbreaker sentences shatter their mushmild teeth, let them eat stale cake dunked in weak tea of their own ungodly manufacture. If the Chicano intellectuals wish to re-cut my ‘Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’ so it shapes ‘Zoot,’ may the belt unravel and the pants fall.”
“They censor words not the things they denote:
It would create less of a stir to drop a piece of sh— on Grant’s tomb than to write it out in white paint.
Because people recognize that’s what memorials are for – old bums and dogs to shit on.”
“I take the side of young people, but I am also a realist; it is especially offensive to me when an uptight adult suggests that my stories are ‘inappropriate’ for young readers. I imagine, when I write, that I am writing for young readers — not for uptight adults.”
Letter to the Hanover County School Board on its ban of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1966: “Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is ‘immoral’ has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink. I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.”
"The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists' questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, cancelled films — that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink. Certain kinds of trauma visited on peoples are so deep, so cruel, that unlike money, unlike vengeance, even unlike justice, or rights, or the goodwill of others, only writers can translate such trauma and turn sorrow into meaning, sharpening the moral imagination."
On why he felt "glee" upon learning The Golden Compass was among 2008's most challenged books: "Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn’t get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could.”
Justin Richardson, MD
“We wrote [And Tango Makes Three] to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.”
“This indictment is a kind of fever that flares up from time to time. It flared up after Defender of the Faith, again after Goodbye Columbus, and understandably it went way up — to about 107 — after Portnoy’s Complaint. Now there’s just a low-grade fever running, nothing to worry about. I think the generation that got hot and bothered by my work is getting a little tired of the fuss. You know… if you hang around long enough, they begin to get used to you.”
On accusations Harry Potter promotes Satanism: “A very famous writer once said, ‘A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out.’ People tend to find in books what they want to find. And I think my books are very moral. I know they have absolutely nothing to do with what this lady is writing about, so I’m afraid I can’t give her much help there.”
On whether he'd write The Satanic Verses today: "I would have written it. I don't know that I would have survived. I hope we're not so craven and cowardly that we can't publish books anymore. But I think the level of danger would have been exponentially higher in the age of the internet. You can spread hostility so fast now. We see that everyday in the way the internet is used as a force."
Speaking to Stephen Colbert in 2012 on the frequent banning of In the Night Kitchen:
Colbert: “This one gets banned all over the place. And you know why.”
Sendak: “He’s got a dick.”
Mildred D. Taylor
On the challenge toward The Land: “Although there are those who wish to ban my books because I have used language that is painful, I have chosen to use the language that was spoken during the period, for I refuse to whitewash history. The language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including my family. I remember the pain.”
Writing to a librarian on the Brooklyn Public Library’s ban of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1905: “I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer [and] Huck Finn for adults exclusively, [and] it always [distresses] me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, [and] to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.”
“All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values. Well, as an old poop I can remember back to when we had those old-fashioned values, and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States — and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”