TSS 2: Banned Books Week Spotlight – The Grapes of Wrath


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Original publication date: 1939

This week is banned books week in the United States.  All week I will be highlighting banned, challenged, and censored books I own and have read.

Publisher description:

One of the greatest and most socially significant novels of the twentieth century, Steinbeck’s controversial masterpiece indelibly captured America during the Great Depression through the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads. Intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity, The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is not only a landmark American novel, but it is as well an extraordinary moment in the history of our national conscience.

Status: Challenged in the U.S., including being burned by the East St. Louis, IL public library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, NY public library (1939); publishers put on trial in Turkey for spreading propaganda (citation).

Reason for challenge in the U.S.: Reasons cited include profanity, taking the Lord’s name in vain, inappropriate sexual references, and the fact that an ex-minister recounts his sexual conquests (citation).

My thoughts: “The Grapes of Wrath” is one of my favorite books (.doc) of all time.  I have loved it ever since reading it in high school in what was my introduction to John Steinbeck.  Like “Kaffir Boy,” this is the story of a downtrodden and economically depressed people.  Although the ‘Okies’ didn’t suffer the same systemic abuse and racism as did Mark Mathabane and his family, they were definitely an economically and politically oppressed people.

Your Turn: Have you read “The Grapes of Wrath”?  What did you think about it?  Did the profanity make an impact on you (positive or negative)?  Did it work within the conext of the book or was it gratuitous?  Can you imagine having to pack up your entire life in a car and move half-way across the country to start over from scratch?

Buy this book on Amazon.

Check out my Banned Books Week Spotlights all week, every day at 2 pm Central through Saturday, Octobter 4th.

Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog is doing Banned Books Week Spotlights as well, every morning at 9 am.  Check her out as well!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower — And Tango Makes Three

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22 comments to TSS 2: Banned Books Week Spotlight – The Grapes of Wrath

  • I absolutely adored this book. I only just read it last year, and it was myfirst book review, too!

    The profanity didn’t bother me in the least; in fact, I don’t even remember it so it must have left no impression whatsoever. I was struck much more by the family’s desperation and could not imagine finding myself in their shoes. It was a very powerful book for me.

  • I alsao read this book in a High School English class and loved it. It was a long time ago when I read it but don’t recall being shocked by anything in the book that would require it to be banned! I don’t agree with the whole concept of banned books so it would be hard to convince me as to why one should be
    banned. IMO, there is free choice here in our country and if you are offended by a book just don’t read it!

    I do remember being impacted by the concept of packing everything up in your car and traveling across country. As a high schooler, that was unfathomable to me!

    I read East of Eden by Steinbeck a few years ago and loved that as well. He is a gifted and talented writer and one that everyone should read. I’m glad that you chose to focus on this book!

  • I still have never read any Steinbeck. I somehow missed him in school. Your review has put it in the forefront of my mind, so thanks :)

    Some of the best books of all time have been banned!

  • I haven’t ever read it and I feel like such a slacker! Based on some of his short stories that I read as an undergraduate I thought I didn’t like Steinbeck. Oh, and I hated Of Mice and Men. But I sampled a bit of East of Eden a while back, and I think that could be the big winner for me. Need to get back to it soon.

  • I remember reading this from an elective book list in high school english class. Interestingly, it’s about the only book I remember reading in high school because it made such an impact on me. The family dynamics just drew me in and I was hooked. Thanks for bringing back such a great memory!

  • Of Mice and Men is my favourite Steinbeck, I loved Grapes of Wrath too, as well as others. I’ve posted a banned book survey on my book blog today if it interests anyone. I’m not sure where to go to join the circles on subjects yet. But it’s been a fun week reading everyone’s posts about it.

  • fyrefly

    My high school English classes tended towards more eclectic books rather than the typical canon, so the only Steinbeck I’ve ever read is The Red Pony, which (as an eighth grader) I hated.

    I’ve been trying to pick off the “high-school” books that I’ve missed; I’ll have to bump this one up the list.

  • I just started reading it today! The preacher remembering taking the girls in the field after the revival gave me pause but I loved his reasoning. lol

    I think it would be an appropriate book for older high school students. They’d have to be extremely naive to be shocked by it.

  • One of my favorite “classics”! Yes, I read it for the first time way back in high school, but I’ve re-read it at least twice since (it is quick!), and have seen a film adaptation.

    Jen, your schedule of books this week is fantastic, and you have a great format for the Ban Books Spotlight; I’ll look forward to reading the rest of your posts in the series.

  • Grapes of Wrath is definitely my favorite Steinbeck novels. The profanity didn’t bother me at all, I barely noticed it really. And although the minister’s talk of his sexual escapades may have been controversial years ago, our news and media have made this an everyday idea, which pretty much nullifies that shock factor.

  • lindymc

    I’m from Oklahoma and read this many years ago when some local discussion came up re. the book painting a negative picture of our state. Many considered the term Okie to be very derogatory. I remember thinking (being sympathetic to the Joads) that California should be more ashamed than Oklahoma. Sometime later, a politician tried to turn it all around by creating buttons proclaiming “proud to be an Okie”. And sometimes at the state capitol one would see a legislator wearing a small “Okie” lapel pin. I cannot imagine that the book would be banned in our present day and age.

  • I posted about this one in my Banned Books Week post last week. In my junior high school English class, a number of students were excused from reading the last chapter of the book because their parents found the ending too shocking. I found it utterly ridiculous to expect a kid to read this weighty book and then NOT know how it ends (so of course I told all of them what happened). Oddly enough, I don’t remember anyone protesting the profanity.

  • I agree completely, one of my favorite books from high school. I would love to read it again as an adult, I’ll have to see if I can fit it into my reading schedule!

  • I read this book in high school not for school but for pleasure and really liked it. I don’t really remember much about it though, so it sounds like a reread is in order.

  • Elizabeth M.

    This is probably one of my favorite books ever. I also saw the movie. It was absolutely intense and heartbreaking to me.

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