First Lines is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?
This month’s theme is a little different from most first line posts I do. In this collection of first lines, the books do not share a common genre or subject or trope. Can you guess what these very different books have in common?
I was born with water on the brain. Okay, that’s not exactly true.”The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Talon twins were.”Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
‘Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman
Did you Guess the Theme of this Month’s First Lines?
All of these books have been banned in the United States. October 1-7 is Banned Book week in the US. According to the American Library Association, “Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools.”
This is a dangerous time for readers and the public servants who provide access to reading materials. Readers, particularly students, are losing access to critical information, and librarians and teachers are under attack for doing their jobs.”Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom
There have been an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books in schools and libraries across the nation.
Each of these books include topics that can be triggers for some. They explore painfully difficult aspects of the human and societal condition. It is your right to choose not to read any of these titles. It is also absolutely your right to read any of them you wish to read. The following are some of the reasons given for why these books were banned.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Banned for its portrayal of slavery, racism, and the glorification of the antebellum South. The book has been criticized for romanticizing the Civil War and depicting Black characters as subservient to white characters.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Banned due to themes of death and the fact that the main characters are talking animals.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Viewed as communist propaganda, and many farmers and agricultural groups were irate that it fomented anger about their labor practices.
The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman. Banned because it “included references to critical race theory, ‘indirect hate messages,’ gender ideology and indoctrination.”
Other Banned Books
by George M. Johnson. Banned because it includes LGBTQIA+ content and profanity; it is also “considered to be sexually explicit.”
by Toni Morrison Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
by J.D. Salinger. Banned for excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence and anything dealing with the occult” and “communism,” among other things.
by Sarah J. Maas. Claimed to be sexually explicit
by Ellen Hopkins. The book has frequently been banned and challenged in the United States because of drugs, offensive language, and being sexually explicit.
by Anne Frank. Banned, mostly in regard to passages that were considered “sexually offensive,” as well as for the tragic nature of the book, which some felt might be “depressing” for young readers.
by Mike Curato. LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
by Maia Kobabe. LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
by Jeannette Walls. Banned due to strong sexual situations, alcoholism, and abuse—both physical and sexual.
by Margaret Atwood. Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones.
by J. K. Rowling. Banned for containing witchcraft, the occult, and anti-family themes.
by Angie Thomas. Banned for profanity and violence and was accused of promoting an anti-police agenda.
by Ibram X. Kendi. Challenged and banned for vulgar language and discussions of race.
by Maya Angelou. Banned for language and being too explicit in the book’s portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse.
by Khaled Hosseini. Banned for its sexually explicit content, offensive language, and age inappropriateness.
by Jonathan Evison. Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
by Walt Whitman. Banned as deemed “obscene,” “too sensual,” and “shocking” because of its frank portrayal of sexuality and its obvious homoerotic overtones.
by John Green. Banned for offensive language, sexually explicit scenes, homosexuality and unsuitable religious viewpoints.
by Alice Sebold. Banned due to sexual content and language.
by Jesse Andrews. This book was banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.
by Barbara Ehrenreich. Banned and challenged for drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint.
by John Steinbeck. Banned for “profanity,” “morbid and depressing themes,” and the author’s alleged “anti-business attitude.” Others have called it “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”
by Ashley Hope Pérez. Banned as viewed as patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion”
by Stephen Chbosky. Depiction of sexual abuse, LGBTQIA+ content, drug use, profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit
by Elizabeth Acevedo. Banned because of its themes of sexuality and struggling in a religious household.
by Harper Lee. Banned for language and racial depictions.
by Sara Gruen. Banned for its sexual content, violence, extensive use of swear words.
by Madeleine L’Engle. Banned for various reasons such as for being too Christian and then also, for not being Christian enough. The book’s “New Age” content was constantly critiqued.
There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. They are here for your enjoyment and information. And to entice you to buy more books.
Do You Want to Read More?
If you haven’t read these books I encourage you to do so. Think about what you think the author wanted to say and whether you think it a worthwhile message despite the insensitivities and ignorance of times past and today.
Check out previous First Lines posts. Please take a moment to share in the comments below—