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Book Ban


Brautigan's books have been banned in both California and Iran. Information is provided below about both instances.


On 8 January 1978, J.D. Leitaker, principal of Anderson High School in the Northern California town of Anderson, removed six Brautigan books from the school's library and from the developmental reading classroom of a teacher who had taught at Anderson High for eight years. The San Francisco American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), two teachers, three students, and Brautigan's hard cover publisher Delacourte-Seymour Lawrence filed suit in California Superior Court on 5 October 1978. The case was decided in Brautigan's favor in December 1978. Leitaker, age 79, died 6 February 2011. Read his obituary in the Anderson Valley Post. More information about this banning of Brautigan's books is provided below.

Cheatham, Bertha M. "School Board Socked with ACLU Suit in Brautigan Book-Banning Incident." School Library Journal 25(4) December 1978: 8.

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Holt, Patricia. "Judge Advances Fight Against Brautigan Book Ban." Publishers Weekly, 9 April 1979: 19-20.

Quotes ACLU attorney Ann Brick who says, "the case is significant because it comes into a new area of law." So far it does not focus on the question of obscenity but rather, as Brick [said], on "how far school boards can go in taking books off the shelves. . . . If the library can be purged every time there's a change in the philosophy of the school board, that is contrary to what the First Amendment is designed to do."

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Holt, Patricia. "Seymour Lawrence and ACLU Fight Ban on Brautigan Books." Publishers Weekly 16 October 1978: 32.

Quotes Margaret Crosby, one of the two ACLU attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

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Jenkinson, Edward. Censors In The Classroom: The Mind Benders. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979: 30-31.

Summarizes the case saying several Brautigan books were removed from the shelves because they were deemed "objectionable."

The full text of this article reads:

Anderson, California. Students at Anderson Union High School can no longer find Richard Brautigan's poetry and fiction in their library or in their developmental reading classes. The Anderson High principal removed seven Brautigan books in January of 1978, and the school board later voted later to ban The Abortion, Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt, and A Confederate General from Big Sur. The two Brautigan works not banned are The Revenge of the Lawn and In Watermelon Sugar.

According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Shasta, the principal removed the seven Brautigan works from the developmental reading classroom of a teacher who had taught at Anderson High for eight years. The only reason given for removal of the books was that they "are objectionable." The teacher maintained that more than three hundred students have read some or all of Brautigan's works during the eight years he has taught the class and that no student or parent ever objected to any of the books. The principal gave the books to two separate committees for review. One committee reported to the school that three of the Brautigan books "contained definite and explicit material which the general public would deem unsuitable for children." The committee recommended that "public funding should not be utilized in providing these books to the general student body at Anderson Union High School." Similar recommendations were later made for two other books.

Two teachers of developmental reading, three high school students, and the publisher of Brautigan's works filed suit against the principal and the school board near the end of 1978. The suit calls for the issuance of a judicial declaration that in banning the five books the defendants "acted arbitrarily, capriciously and without justification and in violation of the rights of the plaintiffs as guaranteed" by the California Constitution and by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The suit also calls for a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from banning the books from the library and the curriculum. (30-31)

Schmidt, Carol. "Writer Sights in on Bozeman Life." Bozeman Chronicle 26 April 1982: 1-2.

In this article about Brautigan's experience teaching creative writing at Montana State University, in Bozeman, Montana, Brautigan speaks about his reaction to the banning of his books.

"It's as if I was a butcher and took care of my shop and made sure I only sold fresh meat and then someone picketed me for selling rotten meat," Brautigan said. "It does upset me."

"In the matter of censorship, I think there are several levels of maturity of children and some would not be expected to have the maturity and insight to grasp some of these things. The decision should be made with responsibility and without violation of the Constitution of the U.S. and the Bill of Rights."

. . . Brautigan said he is more sensitive to the ban issue than his usual criticism. And he admits, he does have his critics.

Says the case was decided as a split decision: the classroom book ban was upheld, but Brautigan's books were ordered back onto the library bookshelves. The decision was appealed by both sides.

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Dehghan, Saeed Kamali. "Tehran International Book Fair Launches Crackdown on 'Harmful' Titles." Main Section The Guardian 2 May 2012: 24.

Suggests that Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar, translated into Farsi by Mehdi Navid, was censored. Navid, speaking about word changes suggested by Iran's ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, says some are ridiculous.

Online Resources

Dehghan's article online at The Guardian website