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Banned and Dangerous Art

by nmik ~ July 5th, 2014

Welcome to Banned and Dangerous Art, a freshman seminar at the University of Mary Washington, Fall 2015.

NEWS FLASH!!! September 30, 2014  

On Monday, September 29, 2014, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was banned in the Riverside Unified School District, Riverside, California.


As the The Los Angeles Times reports, “One of the most popular young adult novels of recent times has been banned in Riverside. The Riverside Unified School District has forbidden John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ in its middle school libraries. The school board voted to remove three copies of John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ from the library shelves of Frank Augustus Miller Middle School and to forbid its inclusion at other middle school libraries in the district. Even donations of the book are not to be accepted. The ban comes after a complaint from a parent that the book contains profanity and references to sex. ”  According to the the Riverside Press Enterprise, ” The Riverside Unified School District’s book reconsideration committee voted 6-1 to pull all three copies of John Green’s 2012 novel from library shelves. The book will be allowed at high school libraries, said committee chairwoman Christine Allen, librarian at Arlington High School. The vote was taken after parent Karen Krueger made her case to the committee and asked its members – teachers, parents, a principal, librarian and instructional services specialist – to remove the book or make it available for checkout only with parental consent. Krueger said she didn’t want to “come off as a prude” or block anyone’s freedom to read. But she questioned whether the book should be available at the middle school library because the subject matter involves teens dying of cancer who use crude language and have sex.  ‘I just didn’t think it was appropriate for an 11-, 12-, 13-year-old to read,’ she said. ‘I was really shocked it was in a middle school.’ Some committee members agreed.”

Here is author John Green’s response on Tumblr.


BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2014  is September 21- 27.

Do you know what books have been banned recently in the U.S.? How many of them have you read?



NEWS FLASH!!  July 24, 2014  Ringgold School Board in Pennsylvania banned Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale from the summer reading list. The book was banned for its “graphic language” and “sexual content.” One member of the board called the book “garbage” and another member commented that the book “uses language that, if used by students, would get them expelled.” When it was pointed out that some members of the board objecting to the book had not read it, one member responded, “I don’t read Penthouse and I won’t read this.” The American Library Association lists The Handmaid’s Tale as number 37 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. 



Margaret Atwood is an award winning novelist and poet. The Kid’s Right to Read Project (KRRP) of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to the Ringgold High School President and members of the Board of Education detailing the constitutional and educational reasons for retaining the book. You can read the letter here.



September 16, 2013

North Carolina school board bans Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  According to the Asheboro, NC Courier-Tribune,  “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is now banned from the shelves of Randolph County Schools libraries. ” By a 5-2 margin, the Randolph County Board of Education voted Monday night, at its regular meeting held at Eastern Randolph High School, to remove all copies of the book from school libraries. The action stems from a Randleman High School parent’s complaint about the book. Committees at both the school and district levels recommended it not be removed…”


The board action was is response to a complaint about the book from the parent of an 11th grader. In her complaint, the parent said,  “The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.” From Asheboro, Courier-Tribune 9-16-13.

Read more about Ralph Ellison from the Library of Congress

In this course, we will be exploring and analyzing many examples of Banned and Dangerous Art, including banned music, visual art and film, books, and performances. Take a look at this mural painted by the artist Blu and then its subsequent removal; read more about it here in the Los Angeles Times and here in the New York Times


Listen to  the music of Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain below. Vahdat (and her sister) are currently banned in Iran –but  a collaboration like this one between Vahdat and McClain would have been impossible here in the US even 60 years ago.

Or enjoy this video from the artist BLU above and ask yourself, is graffiti art? When are we justified in removing it? When not?

BIG BAG BIG BOOM – the  wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.