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Home --> Politics --> Sarah Palin --> Banned Books

Banned Books

Claim:   List catalogs books banned from the Wasilla, Alaska, public library by Mayor Sarah Palin.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]

This is the list of books Palin tried to have banned. As many of you will notice it is a hit parade for book burners.

This information is taken from the official minutes of the Wasilla Library Board.
When the librarian refused to ban the books, Palin tried to get her fired.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women’s Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

Origins:   One of the many political rumors swirling around Alaska governor Sarah Palin after her selection as the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee had to do with the subject of books: That during her tenure as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she had wanted to remove certain books from the city's public library, or had tried to have some books censored, or had banned a lengthy list of books (as reproduced above).

According to the Anchorage Daily News, around the time Sarah Palin first assumed the mayorship of Wasilla back in 1996, she initiated some speculative discussions with the city's librarian about the possibility of removing some "objectionable" books from the public library:
In December 1996, [city librarian Mary Ellen] Emmons told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her — starting before
she was sworn in — about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose.

When the matter came up for the second time in October 1996, during a City Council meeting, Anne Kilkenny, a Wasilla housewife who often attends council meetings, was there.

Like many Alaskans, Kilkenny calls the governor by her first name.

"Sarah said to Mary Ellen, 'What would your response be if I asked you to remove some books from the collection?" Kilkenny said.

"I was shocked. Mary Ellen sat up straight and said something along the line of, 'The books in the Wasilla Library collection were selected on the basis of national selection criteria for libraries of this size, and I would absolutely resist all efforts to ban books.'"

Palin didn't mention specific books at that meeting, Kilkenny said.

Palin herself, questioned at the time, called her inquiries rhetorical and simply part of a policy discussion with a department head "about understanding and following administration agendas," according to the Frontiersman article.
According to that same article, no evidence has been uncovered that any books were actually censored or removed from Wasilla's library as a result of these discussions:
Were any books censored [or] banned? June Pinell-Stephens, chairwoman of the Alaska Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee since 1984, checked her files and came up empty-handed.

Pinell-Stephens also had no record of any phone conversations with Emmons about the issue back then. Emmons was president of the Alaska Library Association at the time.
Given that, as yet, there is no documentation of any books having been banished from the Wasilla library by Mayor Palin, or even of which books she may have had in mind when she broached the subject, whence comes the considerable register of tomes now being circulated as "the list of books Palin tried to have banned"? The purging of the selections enumerated here from a public library would surely outrage any educator or book lover, with the listing including classics of literature by authors from William Shakespeare to William Faulkner, works by popular contemporary writers such as Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, and even such seemingly bland reference works as Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.

One obvious clue that this list must have been cobbled together from some source other than discussions that may have taken place in Wasilla in 1996 is that several of its entries (most notably the books in J.K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter series, which began in 1997) hadn't yet been published back then. In fact, versions of this list have been circulating since at least as far back as 1998, and is actually a catch-all collection of titles said to be "books banned at one time or another in the United States."

Political debate over why Mayor Palin was inquiring about banning books has become a major presidential campaign issue in 2008, with different parties involved in the dispute providing conflicting information:
Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said that Palin asked the head librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, on three occasions how she would react to attempts at banning books. He said the questions, in the fall of 1996, were hypothetical and entirely appropriate. He said a patron had asked the library to remove a title the year before and the mayor wanted to understand how such disputes were handled.

Records on the city's Web site, however, do not show any books were challenged in Wasilla in the 10 years before Palin took office.

Palin notified Emmons she would be fired in January 1997 because the mayor didn't feel she had the librarian's "full support." Emmons was reinstated the next day after public outcry, according to newspaper reports at the time.
Last updated:   12 September 2008

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  Sources Sources:
    Burke, Garance.   "GOP Campaign Downplays Palin Book-Banning Inquiry."
    Associated Press.   12 September 2008.

    White, Rindi.   "Palin Pressured Wasilla Librarian."
    Anchorage Daily News.   4 September 2008.