Between January 1 and August 31, 2023, the American Library Association recorded 695 attempts to censor or ban 1,195 unique books in school and public libraries across the United States. Most of these titles contained themes related to LGBTQ issues, the experiences of people of color, or racism in American history. Indiana has not been immune to these battles in the escalating American culture war; this May Governor Eric Holcomb signed House Bill 1447, which allows community members to request the removal of books deemed “obscene” or “harmful to minors” from school libraries, into law.
While Wells Library celebrated Banned Books Week earlier this fall, those interested in defying censorship and exploring a range of diverse viewpoints and engaging stories can do so now at Media Services, which houses dozens of film adaptations of banned books. Below is a list of seven adaptions of frequently-censored titles you can check out today.
Harper Lee’s 1960 classic about a black man falsely accused of rape in Jim Crow Alabama remains widely-taught — and challenged — in schools due to its frank examination of race in America. The 1962 film adaptation features Gregory Peck’s turn as Atticus Finch, one of cinema’s most beloved fathers and attorneys.
Push by Sapphire is a harrowing depiction of incest, abuse, and poverty that nevertheless manages to end on hopeful note. In the film adaptation, Precious, Gabourey Sidibe shines as a troubled teen mom who enrolls in a GED program to escape the generational trauma that has destroyed her family, and Mo’Nique won an Oscar for portraying her abusive mother.
The Fault in Our Stars, written by Indiana’s own John Green, has been challenged because it contains a brief sex scene, some vulgar language, and strong themes of death. The film adaptation stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as two teenagers with terminal cancer.
Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison’s extraordinary magnum opus explores the aftereffects of slavery in postwar Ohio. Oprah Winfrey stars in the 1998 film adaptation as Sethe, an escaped slave who does the unthinkable to save her daughter from rape and enslavement.
Angie Thomas’s debut novel was one of the most-challenged books following its 2017 release due to its language, discussions of drugs and gangs, and supposed anti-police message. The film adaptation stars Amandla Stenberg as a black teen whose unarmed friend is shot during a traffic stop by a white police office.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker follows two African American sisters in Africa and the American South in the early twentieth century. Steven Spielberg directed the 1985 film, which stars Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Khaled Hosseini’s exploration of the relationship between fathers and sons spans decades of Afghani history and was challenged following its 2003 release due to vulgar language and sexually explicit content. Marc Forster directs the 2007 film of the same name.