The issue with censorship in American literature.
Stories spoken, worlds invented and historical developments are documented through literature. Literature is an international phenomenon. However, American Literature is unique in its diversity. The true definition of an American author is anyone. American literature is an art form that contains creativity, imagination, emotions, and life lessons. Whether it is the tales of war, social outrage, outrageous expressions, or sometimes jumbled words on paper it is American.
Nevertheless, there is a shroud of skepticism and a contradiction to freedom. Free speech in literature is criticized. The criticism of the work leads to book bans. The censorship in literature enforced by the majority silences the voices of marginalized communities and discriminates against minority belief systems. Even though diversity exists, it only is present to the allowable extent of mainstream beliefs. This censorship springs from ethnocentric views, popular religions, and self-centered agendas. Explore mainstream authors like Stephen King with marginalized counterparts of S.J Bolton (Sharon Bolton) a female author and the controversial challenges of books that do not conform to mainstream society.
The inequality of gender in literature
Stephen King is a career author. King built a universe of terrifying ideas, mayhem, and violence that leaves the works labeled classic. King's works led to the books being challenged and banned in the early 2000s that are perceived to have overly violent content will be challenged. Nonetheless, you know the King brand, the name, and the famous films based on the text. Now, shift your perspective to S.J Bolton. Bolton wrote under initials only which increased the market appeal since Bolton identifies as female. The books contain a graphic depiction of the violence of copycat killers, child murderers, and other sensitive topics.
The descriptive language in the books is similar to King's level of description. However, Sharon Bolton, there were no major challenges or bans on Bolton’s novels. King receives notoriety due to being a member of the patriarchy that serves as the majority. The content is challenged because of its visibility while equally graphic content is not noticed due to woman's marginalization in society. This imbalance leads to an unfair wielding of the censorship wand on American authors.
Censorship of beliefs
Another example of book bans is J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series. A book could face a challenge that features unpopular religions. Harry Potter was banned from some Catholic schools due to the premise of the books revolving around magic, wizardry, and witchcraft. In 2021, J.K Rowling’s is not problematic for the depiction of witchcraft, but because of transphobic and homophobic comments that are despicable.
Books with other religious perceptions may be challenged and banned from schools and libraries. Research from Carnegie Mellon University “Blasphemous Dialog: The author of the book uses words such as a god or Jesus as profanity” warrants a ban. In daily life, someone may use “God” or “Jesus” as profanity. However, these people are not challenged or banned. This censorship in literature is problematic for various reasons.
Firstly, it does not embrace the freedom of individualism. Every person much chooses as the reader what content to consume. Personal choice of what content to consume is taken away by censorship. It does not embrace diversity and inclusion to eliminate texts that do not match society's idea of acceptable content.
Another target of literary bans is religion. Ultimately, any written work that does not promote majority beliefs is at risk of banning. Consider the students in a classroom and consider there is no guarantee that every student will be Christain. It can be intimidating and dangerous to reveal your religious belief in a group setting due to discrimination. As a student, you maybe forced to read text that offends your beliefs. Nevertheless, you have no choice. You must dutifully complete the assignments and read the literature assigned by the professor despite information that is offensive to you.
When content is removed simply for holding a counter opinion on the topic, the minds of the youth are raised to be ethnocentric and biased. Literature is about freedom of expression and too often the American’s stifle the true impact of written text.
Freedom to share various perspectives
Consider the intensity of the censorship of LGBTQ+ content. Books are regularly banned for featuring a transgender character. Being transgender is not a dangerous ideology. Author Alex Gino penned the book George which was banned because of LGBTQ+ content and featuring a transgender character. Critics reasoned that the presence of a transgender protagonist would force families to discuss LGBTQ+ topics that could be against their beliefs. The book was deemed inappropriate for being against traditional family values. The majority refuses to accept that the LGBTQ+ community is not a personal attack.
Everyone is entitled to live their authentic life and regardless of the social status or size of the community. Personal beliefs do not justify the oppression of marginalized groups. The current state of censorship is not protected anyone, it mutes the voices of marginalized communities.
The reality of censorship
In American, censorship occurs if the message you write does not line up with the majority's acceptance. Censorship decreases the acceptance of differences. It molds society to live their idea of right and wrong and shun differences. Literature has turned from freedom to imprisonment of ideas.
Freedom of speech means it may not agree with the current social climate. The line between censoring hate speech and bullying is not defined. An author can't navigate the political correctness of their work. It is ever-evolving into a new form based on societal expectations that are decided by the powers of that time.
A call for removing censorship is important in American literature to account for these biases, stereotyping, and generalization. Social trends are dictated by the majority which causes a gap in honesty in writing. If literature is the voice of its origin, then millions of diverse writers are shunned for being the embodiment of America. The United States was built on the concept of acceptance, free speech, and diversity. The descendants in the land came from another country, then subjected to the indigenous population. The concept of freedom ceased for the minority and became controlled by the voices that speak the loudest.
In a perfect world, minority voices are not unheard. Spiritual beliefs are shared with acceptance and the voices of the LGBTQ+ community are not silenced. Literature is an extension of imagination which is the freedom to dream, to believe, and to speak your mind. Over time, literature became a means for silenced voices to speak their truth and to be heard. Nevertheless, the censorship of books based on majority ideals must end. Only then can American literature be truly American.
Bolton, S. DEAD SCARED (Lacey Flint Novels). 0 ed., Minotaur, 2013.
Carnegie Mellon University. “Department of English Puts Spotlight on Banned Books - News - Carnegie Mellon University.” Carnegie Mellon University, 2019, www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2019/september/banned-books-week.html.
Gino, Alex. George (Scholastic Gold). Reissue, Scholastic Inc., 2017.
Hall, Michael. “Challenging Religiocentrism with Atheist and Areligious Characters in Young Adult Literature.” ALAN Review, vol. 48, no. 1, Fall 2020, pp. 28–41.
Labaree, Robert V. “The Regulation of Hate Speech on College Campuses and the Library Bill of Rights.” Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 19, no. 6, Jan. 1994, p. 372. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/0099-1333(94)90029-9.
“LibGuides: Banned Books: Reasons Books Are Challenged.” Library Guides, libguides.butler.edu/bannedbooks?p=217686#:%7E:text=Each%20book%20that%20is%20banned,or%20more%20group%20of%20people. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.
Orwell, George, and Erich Fromm. 1984 (Signet Classics), Book Cover May Vary. Signet Classic, 1961.
Rowling, J., and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1–7). Slp, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009.
Spignesi, Stephen. Stephen King, American Master: A Creepy Corpus of Facts About Stephen King & His Work. Permuted Press, 2018.
“Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, 5 Apr. 2021,
We wrote the original version in ENGLISH 270 class 2019.