CanLit censored? Not on Alice Munro's watch

It's no secret that some of literature's most influential books have been banned at some point somewhere or other.

Titles like Catcher in the Rye, 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird are on the list of books that alarmist and small-minded parents and schoolboards have objected to, and continue to object to, in some places (as recently as 2008, a Toronto parent tried to have Margaret Atwood's CanLit classic The Handmaid's Tale removed from the Ontario high school curriculum for "profane language" and "anti-Christian overtones"). The American Library Association's Banned Book Week (Sept. 30-Oct. 6) is thus a much needed reminder of the importance of freedom of speech in education. (Canada has its own version, Freedom to Read Week, but it's not until the end of February, and we want to talk about our favourite banned books now!)

In honour of Banned Book Week, we've dug through our CBC archives and found the following news clips. In the first one, from the 1970s, Alice Munro proves herself a staunch defender of the freedom to read when the school board in Huron County, Ont., where Munro grew up and still lives part time, attempted to remove Munro's acclaimed short story collection Lives of Girls and Women and three other books from the Grade 13 reading list.

A few years later, another giant of Canadian literature -- Margaret Laurence -- had to stand up to the censors when her novel The Diviners was deemed "blasphemous" by a Fundamentalist Christian group who pressured high school teachers in Peterborough, Ont., to remove it from the curriculum. But the students were smart enough to realize that the would-be censors completely missed the point:

For more great vintage footage and interviews with authors, visit the CBC Digital Archives.

A list of other great Canadian books that have been challenged by parent groups and school boards throughout Canada over the years, according to the Book and Periodical Council:

  • The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
  • Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker
  • Dance Me Outside by W. P. Kinsella
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley
  • Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak by Deborah Ellis
  • Contes pour buveurs attard├ęs by Michel Tremblay