Must Read Banned Books – Part III: Sex and Violence

Whether it is a scandalous scene, a reference to homosexuality or even a discussion of radical ideas, people have fought court cases to ban some of the world’s most famous literary work.

R-Rated Banned Books

In previous parts of our series, we have looked at classic literature that was, and in some cases still is, banned, as well as books that were banned due to political and religious reasons.

These literary works are a few of many that have inspired the masses, created revolutions, and upheavals. They are the cause of transformation all around the world. Then again, since the beginning, the books are regularly banned if they do not fit the mold of the current mindset of the society. Here are the TOP 5 banned books due to their depiction of sex, sexuality or violence, that should be read once in a lifetime.

Not Without my Daughter

by Betty Mahmoody

“Taraf is the Iranian conversational custom of making polite but vacant offers.”

An autobiographical memoir about the brave escape of Betty Mahmoody and her five-year-old daughter from her husband who kept her and their daughter in captivity in Iran. The memoir describes their captivity and escape. After the publication of the book, Dr. Mahmoody denied the claims made by his wife.

The memoir is banned in Iran as the government feels that it puts Iranian society and its customs in a harsh light despite Betty Mahmoody insisting she did not try to stereotype Muslims and the Iranian society. Nevertheless, the book is a must read as it portrays a patriarchal society where men’s rule is to be accepted without question.

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

“I’m poor, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”

A 1983 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Fiction-winning novel, The Color Purple focuses on the grim yet true reality of black women living in Southern America in the 1930s.

Throughout her epistolary novel, Alice Walker talks about racism, sexism, violence against women (psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual) and the patriarchal society.

In 2012, Walker denied her book’s publication in Israel as the country still practiced “apartheid”. She wanted the government of Israel to change their policies so that her works can be published there. The Color Purple has also been banned by the school boards of the United States of America for being too violent, having detailed descriptions of sexual assaults and questioning the faith and a man’s relationship with God.

The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

“When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

The debut of best-selling author Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, ruffled more than a few feathers and was promptly banned in Afghanistan and a few parts of the USA. Set in Afghanistan, the story features tumultuous events that changed the lives of the characters. It describes the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

Though the book was praised by then US president George W Bush and first lady Laura Bush, the Afghanistan government banned it as they believed that the novel portrayed the ethnic groups in poor light. The novel is banned in a few parts of the USA for having graphic sexual content.

The Mask of Sanity

by Jacob M. Appel

“I have come to know a number of individuals who wear [. . .] ‘The Mask of Sanity,’ yet at their cores proved incapable of feeling empathy or compassion for their fellow human beings…”

Published in May 2017, The Mask of Sanity is a surprising read that gives a deep insight into the mind of a serial killer and sociopath. The book was banned pre-emptively in Malaysia for blasphemy. Despite being banned and called grotesque, the novel went on to be a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize and the runner-up for Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award.

Moll Flanders or The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous

by Daniel Defoe

“I saw the Cloud, though I did not foresee the Storm.

Banned in the US mail due to the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, 1873, Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders is partially based on the life of Moll King, a London criminal whom Defoe met in the Newgate Prison.

The novel was quite scandalous for its time, as Moll Flanders “was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent.”

As the novel contains rather obscene scenes, it was challenged on the sexual grounds and banned to be published in the mail.

Banned or not, these books are definitely on my to-be-read pile. After all, one’s man trash can be another man’s treasure!

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About Shagun Benipal

Writer by day, reader by night, Shagun is known for her love of coins, old photographs and books. She loves to share her thoughts on politics, world and space.

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