Books·Freedom to Read Week

12 Canadian books that have been challenged

Freedom to Read Week, which takes place Feb. 23-29, 2020, highlights the importance of free speech, free expression and how censorship affects us all.

Freedom to Read Week, which takes place Feb. 23-29, 2020, highlights the importance of free speech, free expression and how censorship affects us all.

Here are 12 Canadian books that have been challenged.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood​

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

Released in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale was Atwood's breakthrough book on an international scale. The modern classic tells the story of a handmaid known as Offred who is trapped in a society where her only purpose is to conceive and bear the child of a powerful man.

The Handmaid's Tale won Atwood her second Governor General's Literary Award and scored her first nomination for the Booker Prize. It has since undergone several adaptations, for film, stage, ballet, opera and most recently, TV and as a graphic novel. 

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.

Atwood is one of Canada's best known and most prolific writers. She has written more than 40 books in nearly all literary forms including short stories, nonfiction, children's books and stage.

Author Margaret Atwood talks to Adrienne Arsenault about the catalysts for The Testaments, the loss of her husband, a top-secret project and turning 80. 10:34

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

Jillian and Mariko Tamaki won the 2014 Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature — Illustration. (First Second)

This One Summer is a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by her cousin, Jillian Tamaki. The book follows two teens who, over the course of a summer at their family cottage, find themselves tangled in a family crisis. This One Summer was published in 2014. It won an Eisner Award, an Ignatz Award, a Printz Honor, a Caldecott Honour and won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature – illustration. 

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

Mariko Tamaki is a writer whose books include (you) Set Me On Fire, Saving Montgomery Sole and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator whose books include the comics Boundless and Supermutant Magic Academy  and the picture book They Say Blue. They also worked together on the YA graphic novel Skim.

Joyce Davidson interviews Timothy Findley, Canadian scriptwriter, novelist, and winner of the Governor General's Literary Award. 24:49

The Wars by Timothy Findley​

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

In The WarsRobert Ross, a 19-year-old Canadian, decides to enlist in the First World War after the death of his sister to escape his grief and downtrodden life in the Victorian era. The story follows his submersion in the realities of the war. The Wars won the Governor General's Literary Award for English-language fiction in 1981.

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

Findley is also the author of Not Wanted on the Voyage, Headhunter and The Piano Man's Daughter. He died in 2002.

The graphic novelist and cartoonist on his favourite fictional character, his idea of perfect happiness, and why David Lynch and Tom Waits are heroes to him. 4:06

Essex County by Jeff Lemire​

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

Essex County is a graphic novel that explores what it means to live, work, dream and even die in a Southwestern Ontario rural community. The population of this fictional landscape is represented from childhood to old age through its characters Lester, Lou and Anne. The illustrated black and white panels show the characters' stark external world and the vividness of their interior lives. Essex County was on Canada Reads 2011, when it was defended by Sara Quin.

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

Jeff Lemire is a New York Times bestselling graphic novelist whose work includes RoughneckEssex County, The Underwater Welder, Royal City and Gord Downie's Secret Path. The Toronto comic creator has also worked on Justice League and Green Arrow for DC Comics and Hawkeye for Marvel.

Canada Reads starts on Monday, and Vancouver author Raziel Reid's debut novel When Everything Feels Like the Movies is one of five contenders vying for the title. 18:14

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)

Raziel Reid's young adult novel When Everything Feels like the Movies  follows a teen named Jude who refuses to be anything other than his flamboyant, fashion-loving self. Even when it means he faces bullies at school and a difficult time at home. 

When Everything Feels like the Movies won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — text. It was on Canada Reads 2015, when it was defended by Elaine "Lainey" Lui.

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

Reid is a YA writer whose work addresses the challenges of being a gay adolescent. His other book is Kens.

In celebration of Alice Munro's 85th birthday, a rare conversation with Canada’s first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In this interview from 2004, Eleanor speaks with Munro about her Giller Prize-winning collection of short stories, "Runaway." 52:46

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)

Lives of Girls and Women chronicles a young girl's experience growing up in rural Ontario in the 1940s. The protagonist, Del Jordan, grapples with the crises that accompany the journey into womanhood. Lives of Girls and Women was first published in 1971. It was adapted for TV in 1994.

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

"In Canada, nobody is ever overthrown because nobody gives a damn," says Mordecai Richler of his "boring" home and native land. Excerpts from Mordechai Richler's editorial: the Spectator, London. 13:32

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/Canadian Press, Penguin)

In The Apprenticeship of Duddy KravitzDuddy, a third-generation member of a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal and a brash young man, who would torment teachers at the Jewish academy. He takes on four jobs in an effort to "be somebody" and eventually develop the lakeshore property of his dreams. In the process, he learns a few lessons about living. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was published in 1959 and was adapted into a film in 1974.

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

Between 1963 and 1966, Laurence begins her celebrated Manawaka series with The Stone Angel and A Jest of God. 5:19

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

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

Underground to Canada is a historical novel for young readers that tells the story of escaped slaves from the United States who travelled into Canada through the underground railroad. It was published in 1977.

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

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)

Deborah Ellis's Three Wishes is a YA nonfiction book that follows the lives of children entangled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as 11-year-old Mohammad, whose home was destroyed in the conflict, and 12-year-old Sam, whose sister became a suicide bomber.

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

Ellis is a Canadian writer of children's books, including The BreadwinnerLooking for X Sit and Kids of Kabul. She is a member of the Order of Canada.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

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

Lawrence Hill's novel The Book of Negroes 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. The Book of Negroes won the 2007 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the 2008 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book overall and Canada Reads 2009, where it was championed by Avi Lewis.

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

Hill is an internationally bestselling author and a two-time winner of Canada Reads. His other books include the novels The Illegal and Some Great Thing and the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice.

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence

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

The Diviners, part of a five-book fiction series, tells the story of Morag Gunn, a writer and single mother who grew up on the Canadian prairies and has no intention of leaving, because she believes the experience makes her tough. She struggles to understand the loneliness her teenage daughter feels. The Diviners was published in 1974 and won the Governor General's Literary Award for English-language fiction.

Why it was challenged: The Diviners was challenged for blasphemy

Margaret Laurence penned several classic Canadian novels throughout her celebrated career. She twice won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction — first in 1966 for A Jest of God and again in 1974 for The Diviners. She died in 1987.

David A. Robertson is the author of numerous graphic novels, including Will I See?, Betty and Sugar Falls. CBC Books caught up with Robertson at his local comic book store to learn about the comic books he loved reading as a kid. 4:48

Betty by David A. Robertson, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson

Betty is a graphic novel written by David A. Robertson and drawn by Scott B. Henderson. (HighWater Press)

Betty is inspired by the true story of Helen Betty Osborne, a young Cree woman with dreams of becoming a teacher, who was abducted and murdered in November of 1971. The graphic novel shines a light on the many missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.

Why it was challenged: Betty was challenged for sensitive content.

David A. Robertson is an author and graphic novelist based in Winnipeg. His books include the graphic novels  Will I See? and Sugar Falls, the YA novel Strangers and the picture book When We Were Alone.

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