This year, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. But since it’s Banned Books Week, it’s also vital that we mention that in August 1939, the book was banned in Kern County, California. The book was pronounced as a “libel and lie” and was banned on obscenity charges (but in truth, political grounds). By a vote of 4 to 1, the book was banned, but an unsung hero, local librarian Gretchen Knief, was working behind the scenes to overturn the ban. Knief (above, right) wrote powerful letters condemning the banning and burning (above, left) of the book. "Besides, banning books is so utterly hopeless and futile. Ideas don’t die because a book is forbidden reading," she wrote. The ban only lasted 18 months.
This year, for Banned Books Week, don’t just celebrate the books, but also celebrate everyone who has fought and continues to fight for great books.For more on Gretchen Knief, head over to NPR and listen to our Penguin Classic On Air podcast.