Banned books make comeback

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“The Parthenon of Books,” created by Argentinian artist Marta Minujin, sits on the site of a 1933 book burning in Kassel, Germany. Minujin created the display with over 100,000 book titles that have been banned somewhere in the world. (photo by Thomas Lohenes/Getty Images)


Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief

In 1933, Nazis burned over 2,000 books at a site in Kassel, Germany; in 2017, the books came back with a vengeance.

“The Parthenon of Books” is a contemporary art sculpture by 74-year-old Argentinian artist Marta Minujin. Minujin and volunteers from Kassel University collected the donated books from a list of 170 titles, including Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner,” Cecily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” and the works of Don Quixote.

The Kassel Parthenon is as monumental as its namesake, measuring 45 feet tall with a base of 101 feet wide by 228 feet long. Steel frame was used to create the structure, and books were held in place with sheets of plastic wrap. Cherry pickers had to be used to reach the uppermost sections.

“The Parthenon of Books” was featured as part of “Documenta 14,” an Athens-based art exhibition. The exhibit closed on September 17.

Minujin experienced censorship firsthand in her home country of Argentina. When democracy was restored in 1983, Minujin created a similar Parthenon exhibit, this time using 30,000 books that had been banned in Argentina during its dictatorial regime. The display included works by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sarte, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Raúl Scalabrini Ortiz, Darcy Ribeiro and children’s books like “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupery. The books were distributed to the public after the exhibit was taken down.

Every September, the American Library Association (ALA) joins with schools, libraries and individuals to celebrate Banned Books Week and the freedom to read. The ALA also tracks the top ten most challenged and banned books of each year and endeavors to educate the public on the dangers of censorship and the benefits of sharing ideas.

In 2016, the ten most banned or challenged books were the graphic novel “This One Summer,” written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, for its LGBT characters, drug use and profanity; “Drama,” a graphic novel written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier, which included LGBT characters, sexually explicit content and what was considered offensive political viewpoints; “George,” by Alex Grimo, which was banned for its transgender character and sexually inappropriate themes; “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, which was banned for its transgender content, sex education and political viewpoints; “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan, which was banned for its cover art that featured two boys kissing and what was deemed as sexually explicit LGBT content; “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, which was challenged for a sexually explicit scene; the compilation of adult comic books, “Big Hard Sex Criminals,”written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, for being sexually explicit; “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread”  by Chuck Palahniuk, for its profanity and sexual explicitness; the “Little Bill” series by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood, which was challenged after sexual assault allegations were brought against Cosby and “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, which was challenged for its profanity.

Banned Books Week 2017 is September 24-30. Learn more at


Above: The results from the Chanticleer’s survey asking readers to submit their favorite banned or challenged books. “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling came away with 23% of the overall votes; “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee tied for second with 10% of votes each, and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger rounded out the top 3 with 8% of the votes.

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