On Friday, I found myself on the receiving end of a very unpleasant revelation. My book, INVISIBLE, had become a banned book.
It started when I decided to take out an ad on Facebook to promote the fact that Invisible is currently on special offer – it’s down to 99p until Friday (to find out more, click here). I’ve done this a few times before and never had any problems, so clicked on the link to restart an ad I have run previously. But I got a message asking me to edit the ad because there had been a complaint that something in it was abusive.
This was news to me. I read and re-read the advert, but couldn’t find anything in it that might offend anyone. Was it perhaps the tagline “There’s one victim of crime no one notices”? Perhaps ‘victim of crime’ was an upsetting trigger for someone. So I rewrote it: ‘You’d know if you were married to a monster. Wouldn’t you?” The ad was rejected, still insisting it was abusive.
So I cut back the review quotes, wondering if there was an innocuous word in them that was somehow being misconstrued. Nope, after being cut back to the bone, the ad was still being rejected for the same reason: that it contained something someone had complained was abusive.
The ad now read:
** Only 99p ** Limited offer! **
YOU’D KNOW IF YOU WERE MARRIED TO A MONSTER. WOULDN’T YOU?
INVISIBLE – A STAND-OUT PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER. ONLY 99p!
What on earth could be wrong with that? At my wits’ end, I pressed the button that allows me to appeal the decision.
In the meantime, I decided to simply post something on my Facebook author page, so at least any followers of mine could perhaps spread the word. The second I posted the link a warning came up: ‘This is a banned link. Please remove.’ I went cold. What was going on? Friends heard about the problem, and told me they couldn’t post the link either. Facebook had banned INVISIBLE. I had no way of promoting my novel.
A couple of hours later, Facebook sent me a message letting me know they had looked into my problem and reached a decision. “The content advertised by this advert is prohibited,” it advised.
I’m stunned and more than a little bemused. What is abusive? What is it about my book that makes it any more prohibited material than the next crime novel?
It seems there is nothing I can do about this situation. I am now officially the author of a banned book!
I’m annoyed and flabbergasted. But on the plus side, INVISIBLE is in some rather fabulous company. I’ve researched some of the most famous banned books….
TEN BANNED BOOKS
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
Take a wild guess at why this touching story of a horse’s adventures in 19th century England was banned by South Africa’s apartheid regime at one point. Yes, it really was simply because it had the words “black” and “beauty” in the title. No joke.
Wild Swans, by Jung Chang
This brilliant book (if you haven’t read it, do give it a go. It’s wonderful: heartbreaking yet hopeful) is a family memoir told via three generations of women. It’s a unique insight into life in China under the iron rule of Chairman Mao’s Communist party. With over 13 million copies sold, Wild Swans is reportedly the biggest selling non-fiction paperback of all time, but has remained banned in China since its release in 1991.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L Frank Baum
To most readers, this is a simple, feel-good tale. To some, it promotes witchcraft, and the portrayal of human skills as “individually developed rather than God given.” They weren’t keen on an independent female protagonist, either. For these reasons it was banned by many US libraries and schools in the 1930s and 1950s.
All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
Written by a veteran of the First World War, this most respected and renowned work of fiction pulls no punches in its portrayal of the brutality of battle. Hardly surprising, then, that the Nazi government banned it in 1933.
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
Another favourite novel of mine (perhaps I have an affinity for the risqué without even realizing it). This classic tale based on the affairs of a bored married woman caused moral outrage when it was published in 1857. Flaubert and his publishers were put on trial for obscenity, although later acquitted.
The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank
The simple and moving personal account of a teenager hiding from the Nazis, was published in 1953, after Anne’s tragic death. Despite sales totaling well over 30 million, the book was banned in the Lebanon for depicting Jews positively. More astonishingly, it has been challenged by various organisations in the US, including members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee who contended it was a “real downer.
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
Despite being authored at the end of the 14th Century, The Canterbury Tales – a series of tales from journeying pilgrims – was still considered risqué for its colourful language and sexual innuendos into the late 20th Century. Under the Comstock Law (1873), it was prohibited for sale in the US and even now abridged versions are commonplace.
On a personal note, I still remember being jealous to discover that the English group in the year above me was studying the bawdy The Miller’s Tale, while I was stuck with the rather dry The Clerk’s Tale.
Harry Potter, by J K Rowling
The cheery series of books about a young boy discovering he is a wizard and overcoming untold evil seems to have upset quite a few people, despite amassing sales of over 450 million. The first four books in the collection have the dubious honour of being the most banned books in America.
Portrayal of death, evil and hatred – as well as promotion of belief in witchcraft – are among reasons cited for taking it off the shelves of schools and libraries. Others labelled it a “masterpiece of satanic deception”. Gosh…
Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Handford
What could Waldo/Wally have been up to, to get him into so much trouble? Well, when it was first published in the 1990s, apparently one of the “spotting” scenes included a crowd of sunbathers – and one appeared to be topless. For that reason, it became one of the American Library Association’s most banned books of 1990-2000.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D H Lawrence
This sexually explicit tale of an adulterous love affair was considered so steamy that it was famously banned in the UK from its release in 1928. In 1959, Penguin went to trial to get permission to publish it, during which the prosecution asked: “Is this a book you would wish your wife or servants to read?” Readers answered in their droves when, on its first day of publication, the book sold over 200,000 copies. As I have neither a wife nor a servant, I have to confess that I have never read it.
So, I’m hoping that censorship can be a good thing… If INVISIBLE can achieve the sales and long-term success of these famous banned books, I’ll be very happy.
- INVISIBLE is a standout psychological thriller, which is only 99p until Friday. To find out more, click here