Ghost Novel Review in Honor of Banned Book Week

Read a banned book! Celebrate your subversive inner self!

I came across an interesting post at Insatiable Booksluts. Did you know this is banned book week? This year it takes place from September 24th to October 1st. The American Library Association sponsors this week to promote awareness of our right to free speech and free (as in unhindered) reading.

Think about the literary censorship and mind control of the Nazis and the Cultural Revolution and our very own McCarthy. In fiction, we can learn the lessons of book burning in The Book Thief, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

So, in honor of this special week, I went in search of a banned ghost book for you, my faithful readers. I came up with two ghost novels: Beloved (which I have already reviewed here) and The Headless Cupid.  I decided to read the latter to see what the fuss was about.

Book Review of The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Random House, 203 pages.

What can I say about this book except that it’s a delight?

As the novel opens, twelve-year-old Amanda is wrenched from her father to live with her mother, her new step-father and four very individual step-siblings. With skillful irony, the author lays a subtext of birth father neglect that careful readers (and the wise step-father) will discern.

The protagonist Amanda struggles with suppressed rage amid the aftermath of divorce and displacement. A self-taught witch, Amanda agrees to teach the mysteries of the occult to her new siblings for reasons of her own.

The author chooses the reflective oldest brother as narrator. In this way the reader along with the narrator begins to question both Amanda’s motives in promoting the supernatural as well as the veracity of the ghostly sightings. (Yet not all can be explained with cold logic in this haunted house.)

Here’s the thing. I can’t figure out why The Headless Cupid was banned. Now, the ALA keeps statistics on banned books and cites two prominent reasons for challenges: referencing the occult and presenting religious differences. Yet the characters’ attempts at witchcraft are amateurish and quite often humorous. Plus, methinks freedom of religion is covered under the First Amendment right alongside freedom of the press.

The Headless Cupid ranked in the top 100 banned books for the decade ending in the year 2000.

The censors miss the point of this novel. It is far less about occult worship and far more about sorrow and the redemptive powers of compassion and forgiveness. Bread and butter Judeo-Christian values, yes?

I should mention this is a young adult novel written for readers aged 10 and up. As you may have guessed, yours truly falls into that category.

Oh, and The Headless Cupid won the coveted Newbery Honor Award. Subversive indeed!

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