Books we weren’t allowed to read as children (and why)

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Has a parent ever successfully won a battle to have a child not read a book? When I was 12, I hid in my bedroom with my copy of Judy Blume’s Forever. I had never been banned from any book, but I instinctively knew this one would be frowned upon at best. And knowing that made him all the more attractive. I asked my fellow Book Rioters which books they were prohibited from reading when they were children, and why.

LJ Smith’s Initiation

In elementary school I was obsessed with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I was called into the principal’s office one day because a parent complained that I was trying to teach their child witchcraft. Despite the fact that I had only spoken casually about the last Sabrina episodes, the school and my family decided I was a little too enthusiastic when it came to things they considered occult. When I got home, my kid-friendly astrology guide and LJ Smith’s witch books were gone. Since I was reading Flowers in the attic around the same time I’m pretty sure the focus was on the bad books.

– Brooke Bailey Peters

his dark materials golden compass book cover phillip pullman steampunk

Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass

My mother had heard from her friends that it was a bad influence, so I was not allowed to read it. In the end, I searched a copy and didn’t find it particularly controversial… just kind of boring.

—CJ Connor

Its Dark Materials cover

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

My parents were strict with television and movies, especially when I was younger. By the time I was reading independently, they were a bit more forgiving of fantasy, mythology, and characters who needed an attitude adjustment. The only book I remember getting a harsh ‘no’ from my parents was the Its dark materials series. This was before the 2007 film was released, which created a storm of controversy in my social circle. My parents’ reasoning for the ban was that the show made fun of Christianity. I’ve read Pullman’s Sally Lockhart series in the meantime.

—Courtney Rodgers

The color of her panties by Piers Anthony

I was obsessed with Piers Anthony at the end of elementary / middle school and my mom didn’t really hide naked people on the covers, but the title of this one got him thinking which… that’s good mom ! Fortunately, I had borrowed it from a friend whose parents she had known for years, so after having a fit by pointing out that if my friend had been allowed to read it, it was sure to be fine, she gave in. It was actually relatively submissive, compared to some of Mr. Anthony’s more, er… indulgent books.

—Jess Plummer

She made it all the way to Meg Cabot

It is the only book my mother has ever refused to buy from me. I was about 13 years old and I remember insisting that “it says she went all the way… IN ALASKA! It’s a joke! “I ended up buying it myself when she wasn’t with me. I’m now in my 30s and still have my copy of the book and no regrets.

—Alex Luppens Dale

Cover of the VIZBIG edition of Inuyasha vol 1 by Rumiko Takahashi

InuYasha # 1 by Rumiko Takahashi

When I was in college, I bought the first volume of the Inu Yasha series of a Waldenbooks in the mall near me (back to the days of Waldenbooks). I was so excited to read about Kagome, the reincarnated priestess who accidentally returns to feudal Japan, and her adventures with the half-demon InuYasha. When my parents noticed some nudity in the book, they took it away and said I couldn’t read it until I was at least 16 years old. That same year, my brother surprised me with another volume in the series for Christmas. So I guess that’s what the brothers are for.

—Megan Mabee

Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits

When I was a teenager in Puerto Rico, I used to go to the high school library and consult more mature and mature books. I loved reading so much and was so excited to read new books that sometimes Fear Street and Sweet Valley High weren’t enough! A book that was hidden from me during my teenage years, and that I was so excited to read afterwards, was The house of the spirits by Isabel Allende, a Latin American author my mother adored, but who at the time perhaps considered her themes a little too adult for me. The story follows the Trueba family and their triumphs, tragedies and life experiences. Although filled with difficult times, it is a beautiful book to read.

—Aurora Lydia Dominguez


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