Students discuss their favorite banned books

Graphic courtesy of Pixaby

Graphic courtesy of Pixaby


Banned and challenged books are often full of controversial themes, plots and characters. But for every person opposed to a particular book, there’s someone else on whom the same work made a tremendous impact. Here are a few of the banned and challenged books that are closest to the hearts of Mount Holyoke students. 


Bran Kroc ’20: “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

“I think it’s super interesting how ‘Beloved’ deals with racism and slavery, and the mother-daughter relationships are complex and compelling. It examines how trauma can be generational, and how pain is passed on through families, and how that pain materializes in different ways.” 

Why is it controversial? 

“Beloved” has been challenged for its violence and its themes regarding slavery. 


Arden Hegberg ’20: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

“Reading ‘Persepolis’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’ at a fairly young age had an incredible impact on the formation of my political views. These were books that taught me to question the government and the systems in place, which, as a communist, is a significant and constant aspect of my life.”

Why is it controversial? 

The political viewpoint expressed by Satrapi in “Persepolis” has sparked controversy, as has its depiction of gambling and explicit language. “The Great Gatsby” is challenged for its language, sexual references and prominent focus on alcohol. 


Erin Hancock ’20 & Irene Thomas ’21: “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

“Harper Lee’s writing catches the everyday cadence of Southern speech while also wrestling with some of the biggest white Southern demons. It’s like a piece of where I grew up [East Texas], with all the complications and contradictions actually articulated rather than just being brushed under the rug.” 

“I feel like it was the first ‘serious’ book I read, and it was also just so, so compelling. I didn’t know that it was a controversial book. I guess I can kind of see why, but also it’s totally disingenuous to completely shut down a conversation that a book starts just because it’s a difficult conversation to have. Also, who can forget Scout’s iconic thanksgiving ham costume?”

Why is it controversial? 

“To Kill A Mockingbird” has been challenged for its explicit language and its intense portrayal of racism.


Eleanor Schanilec ’20:  The “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling and “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl

“The world created by Harry Potter is enchanting, with some high-quality escapism. The characters and settings are just so comforting!

“‘James and the Giant Peach’ is all about getting away from awfulness, and going on a huge adventure to a place where you’ve always dreamed of being. There’s a fantastic family in it, too.” 

Why is it controversial? 

The “Harry Potter” was famously challenged for its depiction of magic and witchcraft, which was considered to be anti-Christian. It has also been criticized for being overly violent and “anti-family.” “James and the Giant Peach” was also challenged for its darkly magical subject matter, as well as references to drugs and alcohol.