1973 November 10

North Dakota School Burns Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”


On orders from the school board, it was revealed on this day, the schools in Drake, North Dakota, burned three dozen copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s acclaimed novel Slaughterhouse Five. The burning was instigated by a female student who complained that the novel was “profane.” Other books scheduled to be burned include novels by the great American novelists Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck. Slaughterhouse Five is a moving story based on the famous Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, during World War II.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the burning is that with the example of book burning by Nazi Germany anyone in the U.S. would consider burning any book.

According to one survey of book banning, Slaughterhouse Five was banned or challenged in seventeen other instances between 1972 and 2010. Additionally, four other Vonnegut novels were banned or challenged in this period.

There were a number of shocking incidents where U.S. officials burned books in the post-World War II years, with full knowledge of the example of Nazi Germany. On March 31, 1950, the federal government seized and burned 3,000 copies of Scientific American because it alleged published the “secret” of the atomic bomb. Officials in Newark, New Jersey, burned allegedly “lewd” books and magazines on March 7, 1953.  U. S. officials, on August 23, 1956, seized and burned all the materials of the controversial psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, including all of his scientific papers.

Read the acclaimed novel: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

Hear Vonnegut reading from Slaughterhouse Five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaUhWFQ49Fw

Watch of biography of Vonnegut: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCVvWffDCJs

Learn more: Haig A Bosmajian, Burning Books (2006)

Learn more at Vonnegut’s official website: http://vonnegut.com/

And more:  Joan DelFattore, What Johnny Shouldn’t Read: Textbook Censorship in America (1992)

Banned Book Week; authors speak out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKE7k5Qjobw

Learn more about censorship in America: Marjorie Heins, Sex, Sin, and Blasphemy: A Guide to America’s Censorship Wars (1993)

Learn more about Nazi book burning: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005852

Learn about book burning in history: http://mentalfloss.com/article/50038/11-book-burning-stories-will-break-your-heart

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