The topic of banned books has made headlines recently, because although it's 2022, schools and libraries nationwide can still ban texts for discussing "controversial" topics like sexual orientation and race — while still allowing books like Mein Kampf... yikes. Anyway, reading banned books is imperative to keep your mind open against prejudiced authorities, and there actually many banned books about the environment. We recommend adding each and every one of them to your reading list, now.
'Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck
Grapes of Wrath is considered to be one of John Steinbeck's best works. It follows impoverished climate migrant farmers who leave their homes, because of the Dust Bowl. The infamous drought, in case you don't recall, was fueled by not only economic recession, but also by rising temperatures and poor agricultural practices. According to ALA, it was banned in East St. Louis, Miss.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Kern County, Calif.; Ireland, Kanawha, Iowa; Manitoba, Canada; and Anniston, Ala.
'Native Son' by Richard Wright
Challenged in schools across the U.S., and removed from a Fremont, Calif. school, per ALA, Native Son tells the story of a Black 20-year-old living in Chicago's South Side in the 1930s. It goes into issues relating to systemic racism and how segregation affects their health and well-being. As we know, environmental racism is a major issue that's ongoing, affecting vulnerable communities around the world.
'The Call of the Wild' by Jack London
Jack London's Call of the Wild, per the ALA, was banned in Italy and Yugoslavia in 1929, and it was burned by Nazis in 1933. It tells the story of Buck, a beloved pet who is sold and forced to become a sled dog. He is abused and experiences power struggles with the other sled dogs, but it forces people to think about their relationship with animals and with nature, in general.
'The Jungle' by Upton Sinclair
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was banned in Yugoslavia, South Korea, and East Germany, and it was banned in Nazi bonfires because of how it pertains to socialism, per ALA. The eye-opening 1906 novel looks at the dangerous and gut-wrenching living and working conditions for immigrants in the meat-packing industry. Although it aimed to promote socialism, which is why it was so widely banned, but it also exposed serious health risks within the industry, that led to the Meat Inspection Act.
'Tropic of Cancer' by Henry Miller
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, according to ALA, was banned from U.S. customs in 1934, and in Turkey in 1986. Although it isn't inherently about the environment, it describe's Miller's life in a bohemian community in Paris, where he experienced poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness — two issues largely created and exacerbated by environmental issues.
'What Is White Privilege?' By Kelisa Wing and Leigh Ann Erickson
According to Texas Tribune, State Rep., Matt Krause, created a 16-page list containing 850 books he wants to ban from Texas schools. It includes What Is White Privilege? By Kelisa Wing and Leigh Ann Erickson, which looks to teach children about systemic and intrinsic racism, by explaining white privilege. And as we know, there are many environmental factors when it comes to white privilege, including having a voice when it comes to eco issues, having access to green spaces, and more.
'Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World' by Ashley Herring Blake
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake is a devastating story about a 12-year-old girl who loses her home to a tornado. This is yet another book, per Texas Tribune, that Krause wants to ban in the Lone Star state.
'The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears' by Susan E. Hamen
The Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears by Susan E. Hamen is an informative read about colonization, land rights, and beyond. Sadly, because of how Native Americans were forced to live in less desirable locations, they are now more prone to the effects of climate change. And unfortunately, it may soon be banned in Texas, per Texas Tribune.
'The Lorax' by Dr. Seuss
As one of our fave children's books about the environment, The Lorax is a Dr. Seuss classic that's all about the hardships Earth is facing, and the importance of environmental activism. A school in California banned it in 1989, per Reading Partners, because of how it negatively portrayed the logging industry.