Thursday, September 26, 2019


September 22-28 is national Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our freedom to read.

My novel Marcella is among the dozens, no hundreds, perhaps thousands of books censored by libraries or schools.

"Marcella" published in 1973.

Marcella was blocked for its sexual language, the usual reason for suppressing books. Well-known titles banned for sexual content include Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James; The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Other reasons to ban books include offensive language (examples are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck); racism (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain); use of occult/Satanism (J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series) and curiously enough, for its religious viewpoint, The Holy Bible.

Marcella's sexual crime was petting her pussy. That made my book the first novel written in English that chronicled female masturbation. 

Feminists lauded Marcella. Gloria Steinem called my book "an important part of the truth telling by and for women." Ms. magazine published my menstruation chapter as "Falling Off the Roof." Alix Kates Shulman praised Marcella in the New York Times: "Coffey skillfully weaves together the religious, sexual and musical themes that comprise the trinity of Marcella's obsession."

New York, London, Australia and Denmark produced my novel, making me an internationally published author. The New York Public Library displayed Marcella in the United Nations' International Women's Year, 1975.

People, Jet, and Newsweek cited Marcella. The Los Angeles Times, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and many other publications reviewed the book.  Most supported the novel. One wrote that my last chapter, a "masterpiece of frenzied writing," outstripped James Joyce's Ulysses!

However, the Orleans, Nebraska, library censored my naughty book.

"We did it to protect your family," Genevieve Dugan, a librarian, said. 

How unnecessary! 

My sister, Margaret, had already suppressed Marcella. After she'd pored over my book, she told our parents not to read it, and they did not.

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