Reading List

Banned Books Week: 11 Canadian books that have been challenged

The U.S.-based censorship awareness campaign takes place Sept. 24-30, 2017. Why not read a book that has been challenged?

Banned Books Week, a U.S.-based censorship awareness campaign, takes place Sept. 24-30, 2017. To celebrate, why not read a book that has been challenged? 

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood​

Margaret Atwood is the author of The Handmaid's Tale. (Jean Malek/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: Margaret Atwood​'s dystopian novel is set in a near future where woman are enslaved and forced to bear children under a controlling totalitarian regime. 

Why it was challenged: According to Freedom to Read, an organization dedicated to freedom of expression, The Handmaid's Tale was challenged for violence, offensive language and sexual content.

2. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki​

Mariko Tamaki is the author of the graphic novel This One Summer. (Mariko Tamaki/Groundwood Books)

What it's about: Mariko Tamaki's graphic novel follows two teens who, over the course of a summer at their family cottage, find themselves tangled in a family crisis.

Why it was challenged: According to the GuardianThis One Summer was challenged for inappropriate language and mature themes.

3. The Wars by Timothy Findley​

The Wars by Timothy Findley won the 1977 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. (Penguin)

What it's about: Timothy Findley​'s The Wars​ follows a troubled young soldier haunted by a family tragedy and traumatized by the horrors of trench warfare. 

Why it was challenged: According to Freedom to ReadThe Wars was challenged for violence and sexual content.

4. Essex County by Jeff Lemire​

Jeff Lemire is the author and illustrator behind Essex County. (CBC)

What it's about: Jeff Lemire's graphic novel explores what it means to live, work, dream and die in a rural Ontario community.

Why it was challenged: According to Freedom to ReadEssex County was challenged for offensive language.

5. When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid

Raziel Reid won the Governor General's Literary Award for English-language children's literature in 2014 for When Everything Feels like the Movies. (Ash McGregor/Arsenal Pulp Press)

What it's about: Raziel Reid's young adult novel follows a teen who refuses to be anything other than his flamboyant, fashion-loving self.

Why it was challenged:When Everything Feels like the Movies was challenged for offensive language and graphic content

6. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro​

Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. (The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito/Penguin Modern Classics)

What it's about: This short story collection from Alice Munro, published in 1971, explores the life of one woman from childhood through the passage of womanhood.

Why it was challenged: Freedom to Read reports that Lives of Girls and Women was challenged for its philosophy and language

7. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler was a Canadian journalist and author best known for his novels The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Barney's Version. (Ryan Remiorz/CP/Penguin)

What it's about: Mordecai Richler's classic novel, first published in 1974, follows a precocious young Montrealer.

Why it was challenged: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was challenged for offensive language and sexual content, according to Freedom to Read.

8. Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker won the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize in 1979. (Penguin)

What it's about: Barbara Smucker's young adult novel follows a girl who uses the Underground Railroad to escape slavery.

Why it was challenged: Freedom to Read reports that Underground to Canada was challenged for offensive language

9. Three Wishes by Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis was named to the Order of Canada for her work as a young adult author and for her support of humanitarian causes. (Groundwood Books)

What it's about: Deborah Ellis's Three Wishes, a nonfiction book targeted at young adults, follows the lives of children entangled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why it was challenged: Three Wishes was challenged for its historical representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for its portrayal of Israeli soldiers

10. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Lawrence Hill is among Canada's most celebrated contemporary writers. (CBC/HarperCollins Canada)

What it's about: Lawrence Hill's novel follows a woman who was abducted from her village in West Africa as a child and sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. 

Why it was challenged: The Book of Negroes was challenged for offensive language

11. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence won the Governor General's Award for fiction in 1974. (CBC/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: Magaret Laurence tells the story of a single mother living in the Canadian prairies who fights to maintain her independence.  

Why it was challenged: The Diviners was challenged for blasphemy


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.