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Was *Green Eggs and Ham* really banned in China from 1965-1991?

Was *Green Eggs and Ham* really banned in China from 1965-1991?

The Wikipedia article on Green Eggs and Ham states that the children's book was banned in China in 1965 for its "portrayal of early Marxism", and that the ban was lifted in 1991. The citations for this are a clickbait article and a New York Public Library blog post.

Is there documentary evidence that this ban actually existed? If so, what was the rationale? I don't understand what the book has to do with early Marxism.

The ban is believable, if you consider it a ban on the man, rather than the book. It was lifted in 1991 when Seuss died. It was imposed in 1965 on the eve of the Cultural Revolution, when China sought to root out "outdated" views and influences. And it fits the pattern of China.

Throughout Seuss' work, there is a mocking, anti-authoritarian tone. It is this, that troubles a country like China; the bit about "early Marxism" is just a code word for "the party line."

So how did Seuss get on the wrong side of the Chinese? Articles like this one describe how. What would bother the Chinese is a story about how two children took out their grievances with their mother on a cat. Or how "Sam-I-am" was anything but a "yes man" in the Chinese mold.

15 Classic Books That Were Once Banned

It's 2016. I'm just putting that out there because, despite the fact that it's 2016, some people are still trying to ban books. C'mon people. We're better than this. Banning books is nothing new, unfortunately, and some of the most renowned classics in the English language have been challenged, banned, and even burned in the past. Here are just a few of the classic books that were once banned, in honor of this year's Banned Books Week.

These days, books are more often "challenged" than banned outright in the U.S., so. I guess that's some kind of progress? Challenging a book means demanding that it be removed from circulation, whereas banning it means actually removing it. In 2015, some of the top ten challenged books were Looking For Alaska, Fun Home, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and The Holy Bible. So clearly a lot of worth while books are still facing censorship today (although to be fair, people have always been trying to ban the Bible).

Now wind back the clock and add in even more historical hang ups, and you wind up with a lot of brilliant classics that were banned, censored, and destroyed. Celebrate your free speech this week by reading one of these formally banned classics:

1. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Poor Anne Frank had enough to deal with during her actual life, without her diary being banned after her death. The Diary of a Young Girl has been pulled from libraries and school reading lists numerous times, but not because it deals with Nazis and the Holocaust. It's because of one paragraph in which Anne describes her anatomy in straightforward language (parents were horrified at the thought that their children might learn the correct names for their own body parts).

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Would you want to hang out with Holden Caulfield? Not really. But does he deserve to be banned from classrooms? Definitely not. The Catcher in the Rye has been banned in schools many times for swear words, references to prostitution and premarital sex, underage drinking, and, in one instance in a Florida high school, for being all around "unacceptable."

3. Beloved by Toni Morisson

Like many of these books, Beloved is still actively challenged in schools today. In the past it has been banned for sexual content, discussion of bestiality, and depictions of racism. One parent, who tried to get the book banned at Satellite Beach High School in 2015, hadn't even read the book, but still wanted it banned for "pornographic" content. As he put it, “The fact that I don’t understand the central theme of it is of no consequence to me nor my wife.” Oy.

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was once banned in China because it included depictions of talking animals. This was considered inappropriate, because animals using a human language put them on the "same level" as humans. The book was also banned at a school in New Hampshire in 1900 for "sexual content" (what?) and "derogatory characterizations of a teacher."

5. Ulysses by James Joyce

Ulysses was banned for eight years in the U.K. for its strong sexual themes. In America, it was taken to court, and 500 copies were actually seized and burned in New York. The novel was widely considered obscene during Joyce's lifetime. Although Ulysses is set in Dublin, it was never banned in Ireland during this time. but only because it wasn't available anywhere in Ireland, either.

6. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was banned by public libraries in 1928 for "depicting women in strong leadership roles.” Yup. It was also banned in 1957 by the Detroit Public Library for "bringing children's minds to a cowardly level," whatever that means.

7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn was banned a month after its publication in Concord, MA for being "trash and suitable only for the slums." It remains one of the most frequently banned books in the world—although the reasoning has changed dramatically. Originally, Huckleberry Finn was considered vulgar for its ungrammatical language and its progressive, anti-racism stance. Since the '50s, however, it has been challenged for its racism and use of the n-word (which, all things considered, is a far better reason to criticize the book).

8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty is a book about a horse who has a lot of unpleasant adventures. what's controversial there? Well, during Apartheid in South Africa, the book was banned simply because the word "black" and the word "beauty" appeared side by side in the title. YIKES.

9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

When Australia bans a book, they really ban it. Brave New World was banned from Australia in 1932, and all copies were burned. It's also been banned in Ireland and India for depiction of drug use and casual sex.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned in schools dozens of times. Usually it's banned for racial slurs, profanity, and sexual content, but it's also been ominously banned for content that "conflicted with the values of the community."

11. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

If you thought China was the only country to get bent out of shape over talking animals, you thought wrong. Way back in 2006, Charlotte's Web was banned in Kansas because "talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural."

12. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five has been banned quite a few times. In 1972, Oakland County, Michigan public schools banned it for being “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.” The very next year, a North Dakota school one-upped them by shoveling 32 copies of Slaughterhouse Five into the coal burner.

13. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

China banned Green Eggs and Ham in 1965 for its "portrayal of early Marxism" (if you say so?). The ban wasn't lifted until 1991, when Dr. Seuss passed away.

14. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

It's always the books about censorship that get censored. Fahrenheit 451 has been banned, challenged, and literally censored—in 1953, a middle school gave their students the book with all the "obscene" words blacked out. More recently, the book was challenged because of a scene in which the Bible is banned. so someone tried to ban a book because it depicted books being banned.

15. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Sure, Harry didn't arrive on the scene until the 1990s, but there's no arguing that the Harry Potter Series is already a classic. It's also the most banned book in America, and has been since 2001. Some parents see the series as promoting witchcraft, while others take issue with the fact that Harry "lies" and "disobeys authority figures." It's been banned outright at a number of American and British schools, most of them religious institutions. but I think it's safe to say that Harry isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Five Fascinating Facts about Dr Seuss

1. His first book was rejected by over 20 publishers. Dr Seuss got the idea for his first work, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, from listening to the rhythmic sound of a ship’s engine. The book was reportedly rejected by anything between 20 and 43 publishers (the author’s own account of the number varied) before it was accepted for publication by Vanguard Press in 1937. His books have gone on to sell over half a billion copies worldwide, making him one of the biggest-selling children’s authors in the world.

2. Dr Seuss included the word ‘contraceptive’ in a draft of his children’s book Hop on Pop to make sure his publisher was paying attention. The original draft of the book contains these lines: ‘When I read I am smart / I always cut whole words apart. / Con Stan Tin O Ple, Tim Buk Too / Con Tra Cep Tive, Kan Ga Roo.’ We’re pleased to report that the publisher, Bennett Cerf, was paying attention, and this line was removed. (More great word facts here.)

3. When Dr. Seuss suffered from writer’s block, he would go to a secret closet filled with hats and wear them till the words came. He owned hundreds of hats and would encourage his guests at dinner parties to wear one. His second book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, appears to have been autobiographical.

4. ‘Dr Seuss’ is one of the most mispronounced of all writers’ names. It actually rhymes with ‘voice’, so ‘Zoyce’ rather than ‘Zeus’. As well as using the name Dr Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel also wrote under the pen names Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone.

5. His bestselling book Green Eggs and Ham was banned in Maoist China because it portrayed ‘early Marxism’. Perhaps one of the more surprising banned books, Green Eggs and Ham was outlawed in China until Seuss’s death in 1991. He wrote the book as the result of a bet – he was challenged to write a book using just 50 words. All but one of the words in the book are monosyllabic: ‘anywhere’ is the only word in Green Eggs and Ham that has more than one syllable.

Image: Ted Geisel (Dr Seuss) photographed by Al Ravenna, 1957 Wikimedia Commons public domain.

Was *Green Eggs and Ham* really banned in China from 1965-1991? - History

2015 Reading Challenge, Week 47 - A Banned Book
Having read many thick volumes for this year's challenge, I was happy to choose a short book this week. It interests me to discover why kids' books get placed on banned books lists. This one may seem completely innocuous, but apparently it was banned in Maoist China in 1965 for what they perceived as its portrayal of early Marxism. I can't really figure that one out.

“Do you like green eggs and ham?” asks Sam-I-am in this Beginner Book by Dr. Seuss. In a house or with a mouse? In a boat or with a goat? On a train or in a tree? Sam keeps asking persistently. With unmistakable characters and signature rhymes, Dr. Seuss’s beloved favorite has cemented its place as a children’s classic. In this most famous of cumulative tales, the list of places to enjoy green eggs and ham, and friends to enjoy them with, gets longer and longer. Follow Sam-I-am as he insists that this unusual treat is indeed a delectable snack to be savored everywhere and in every way.

Originally created by Dr. Seuss, Beginner Books encourage children to read all by themselves, with simple words and illustrations that give clues to their meaning.

Dr Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel, was challenged by a friend to write a book with only 50 words, and this classic was the result. Limiting himself to such a small vocabulary, yet still ending up with a decent theme, was a really clever feat.

As a kid, I was pretty sure I latched onto the moral Dr. Seuss intended us to. Turning up our noses and declaring we don't like something without even trying it is foolish behaviour with the potential to seriously limit our pleasurable experiences. Even at the age of four, I was already aware that lots of people behave like Sam's friend.

I assumed that Sam-I-Am obviously knew the big, furry guy well enough to have formed a pretty accurate impression of his tastes, so he was doing him a favour by pressing the issue. This is made clear at the end when the big chap profusely thanks him for introducing a new taste sensation.

The moral isn't that we're supposed to pester and nag until the other person breaks down with frustration just to get us off their back. I accepted Sam to be more like the persistent widow in the Bible, (who Jesus commended for pestering the unjust judge), than a colossal pain in the rear end. Sam was the hero for risking unpopularity by going out of his way to prove his point, when it would have been far easier for him to shrug his shoulders and say, 'Your loss.'

Would I try green eggs and ham myself? Possibly, since I've tried purple carrots, yellow watermelon and blood oranges. It is a strange experience, to reconcile a familiar flavour with an unexpected colour. But I would draw the line at black pudding, just because I don't fancy the thought of the ingredients that go into it, so we all have our limits.

I guess many parents have used this little book to encourage their kids to eat up over the years, and will probably keep doing it for decades to come.

The Dark History Behind These Kid’s Books!

In 2010, The Texas State Board of Education briefly banned this picture book after confusing its author, Bill Martin, Jr., with philosopher Bill Martin, author of ‘Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.’

2. The Wizard Of Oz

In 1928, all public libraries in Chicago banned The Wizard Of Oz because of its “ungodly” influence “for depicting women in strong leadership roles.” Also in 1957, the Detroit Public Library banned the book for having “no value for children of today.”

3. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was banned in Colorado for “poor philosophy of life.” Since 1964, the book was under fire for comparing the Oompa Loompas to Africans. The characters’ descriptions were later changed in an edited version in 1988.

4. Green Eggs And Ham

Green Eggs And Ham was banned in California for accusations of “homosexual seduction.” It was also banned in China for “early Marxism” from 1965 until Dr. Seuss’ death in 1991.

5. The Lorax

In 1989, a California school district banned The Lorax and claimed that it “criminalized the foresting industry”.

6. Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are was banned in most southern states immediately following its publication due to the fact that it promotes “witchcraft and supernatural events.”

7. Alice In Wonderland

Apparently there are references to sexual fantasies and masturbation in this book, therefore being banned in classrooms in New Hampshire. This book was also challenged in the 1960s, in fear that it would promote drug use to children.

8. Charlotte’s Web

In 2006, Charlotte’s Web was banned in Kansas because talking animals are considered an “insult to god”.

9. Bridge To Terabithia

In 1996, it was removed from several classrooms in Pennsylvania on accounts of “profanity, disrespect for adults, and an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.” The book has also been banned by other schools for its use of the phrases “Oh Lord” and “Lord”.

10. The Diary Of Anne Frank

This book has been banned several different times. Most recently, in May of 2013, a Michigan mom tried to get the book banned due to its “pornographic tendencies.”

11. Harriet The Spy

In 1983 this book was removed from several schools for being “a bad example for children.” It was also challenged for teaching “children to lie, spy, talk back, and curse.”

12. James And The Giant Peach

In 1999, this book was banned in Texas for using the word “ass”.

13. Winnie The Pooh

In 2006, several institutions in Turkey and the UK banned this book, claiming that the character of Piglet is offensive to Muslims. Other institutions claim that the book revolves around Nazism.

14. The Giving Tree

In 1988, this childhood favorite was banned from a public library in Colorado because it was considered “sexist”.

15. Where’s Waldo?

This favorite was also banned because it showed a nude woman on the beach.

The Butter Battle Book

The Yooks and the Zooks are at war over who ate their bread butter side up or butter side down. Each side has a bomb that will destroy everything and the book ends with a cliffhanger- a single blank page. A satire on the arms race and the Cold War, The Butter Battle Book remains one of Seuss’s most controversial. It was banned in various states of the United States and Canada.

Is the book thief banned in Germany?

There is no evidence of banning the book "The Book Thief" so there is no official organization that banned the book however the people of the community and the public tried to challenge the book.

Likewise, is Liesel in The Book Thief German? The Book Thief centers around the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II. Liesel's experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life in this era.

Likewise, what is the most banned book in the world?

High on the list is The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, closely followed by Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. But the most banned book of all time is a shocker.

Why is 1984 a banned book?

1984 &ndash George Orwell's 1984 has repeatedly been banned and challenged in the past for its social and political themes, as well as for sexual content. Additionally, in 1981, the book was challenged in Jackson County, Florida, for being pro-communism. Because you can't judge a novel by a banned book list!

Why was Green Eggs and Ham banned in China?

One thing that has to be noted is that there is a certain anti-authoritarian central theme to most of Dr. Seuss's works. He himself admitted that he was 'subversive as hell' - as your own article notes. This, in the context of China's Cultural Revolution (the period when the book was banned), was a bad thing. Said Revolution aimed to exterminate the last vestiges of capitalism and Western influence from the Chinese sociopolitical landscape - in doing so increasing the power of Mao's central government in Beijing.

Therefore, a figure such as Seuss - despite by all accounts being on the left side of things politically - would have been understandably unpopular with the Chinese leadership. There appears to be relatively little concrete information out there on why this book in particular was banned rather than others - but I wouldn't be surprised if it were due to its popularity (the 4th bestselling English-language children's book of all time, after all). Ensuring the transmission of ɼorrect' orthodox communist doctrine to the young was also a key part of the Cultural Revolution - which may explain why the government would bother to bother such seemingly innocuous children's books.

I think I accidentally started an urban legend. My bad.

Dr. Seuss

During Banned Books Week last month, you may have heard that some busybodies banned Green Eggs and Ham because they thought the story was kinda gay. Metro reported that this happened "briefly in the 1990s because of supposed homosexual innuendos." A Minnesota radio station said the book was targeted for its "homosexual theme." Feministe announced that it had been challenged in California for, "No shit, 'homosexual seduction' on the part of Sam." Many other outlets have related the same story, not just last month but in years past. In 2013, Dr. Seuss' classic even made its way into the Oberlin Public Library's banned books display. "Inside the bright orange book," a local paper reported, a "slip explains that it was once thought to have 'homosexual seduction,' because Sam tried to seduce his friend."

None of these reports say where or when this purported prohibition took place, other than those vague references to California and the '90s. A Lexis-Nexis search turned up nothing. I asked the American Library Association, which sponsors Banned Books Week and keeps track of such things, if they were aware of such an effort they told me it wasn't in their database. Metro said it got its info from a book called Seuss Facts, which as far as I can tell does not exist—though a Facebook feed by that name did mention the alleged ban without citing a source. I got in touch with some of the other reporters and bloggers who had repeated the story. None of them were certain where it came from. After I contacted BuzzFeed's Spencer Althouse, who included Green Eggs in a banned-books list last year, he concluded that the story was "a terrible, terrible rumor" and added a correction to his article. I'm open to the possibility that there's a real event here that I haven't been able to track down, but that seems extremely doubtful.

Besides, I'm pretty sure I know where this began. It's my fault. Sorry. My bad.

Way back in 2002, I wrote a satiric Banned Books Week column that mocked the nation's prigs by suggesting they try to pull something new off the nation's school shelves. The article then devolved into me decoding the supposed sexual subtexts in Treasure Island and, yes, Green Eggs and Ham. Dr. Seuss' book, I wrote,

is a thinly disguised account of homosexual seduction. In this kiddie favorite, "Sam I Am" (that is, "Same As I Am") tries to persuade the narrator to "eat" green eggs and ham. Anyone who has traveled in the Spanish-speaking world knows what "eggs" are. The ham, of course, is a long, phallic sausage, perfect for "porking" someone. The protagonist repeatedly denies any interest in the offer, but Sam persists, proposing that he join him in any number of locations, positions, and kinky arrangements. ("Would you, could you, on a boat? Would you, could you, with a goat?") Finally, our hero gives in, just once—and discovers that he enjoys fellating breakfast after all. Sam has made a convert, and the legion of God-Fearing Heterosexuals is diminished by one.

When I first read that Green Eggs had been banned somewhere, I worried that some literal-minded puritan had taken me seriously and launched a crusade. That doesn't seem to have happened. But phrases from my piece have turned up in several accounts of the legendary Green Eggs ban, and one article actually links to my old column to back up its claims, apparently unaware that I was making a joke. It's true that I never claimed that this ban actually happened anywhere, so those references to California and the '90s didn't come from me. But The Lorax, another Seuss book, really has faced parental opposition in California and an alleged Green Eggs ban in China reportedly ended in 1991. Both of those factlets were mentioned in some of the same articles that claimed a gay-hating Grundy had tried to keep kids from reading Green Eggs and Ham. I suspect that at some point in the chain of transmission, those different elements got mixed up.

Someone once said that if a spooky legend catches on, it says something true about the anxieties of the people who believe and repeat the tale, even if it says absolutely nothing true about the subject of the story itself. My yarn may be more funny than scary—that's what I was aiming for, anyway—but the idea that people would prohibit a harmless children's book is still pretty frightening. And it's not hard to imagine what underlying worries might be at work here.

Many educated elites live in fear of Bible-thumping troglodytes haunting the hinterlands, some great redneck beast slouching towards Washington to make Sarah Palin president. Book-banning stories are tailor made to fit that terror. Palin herself had to deal with rumors in 2008 that she had tried to fire a librarian who wouldn't remove reams of offensive texts from the shelves. The Guardian once ran an Amanda Marcotte editorial under the headline "The Tea Party moves to ban books." The editorial contained exactly zero examples of Tea Partiers trying to ban anything.

There really are crusaders out there whose fear of demons leads them to try to suppress speech. Just ask the American Library Association. But there are also people whose fear of demons leads them to imagine book bonfires where none exist.


“The important task of literature is to free man, not to censor him.” — Anaïs Nin

Throughout world history, the majority of public, educational, and religious institutions have censored certain books for political, religious, or cultural reasons.

This project serves as a place to gather together the writers -- cherished, reviled, or anywhere in-between -- who have had their work hidden from the masses.

For information about the 34th annual celebration of Banned Books Week, which was held September 25 - October 1, 2016, please visit the official website.

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