Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Book Book Showcase: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Publisher: Vintage/Random House
Publication Date: April 19th, 1994

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele- Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles- as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Why I'm Showcasing This Book:

This book has been challenged in several high schools over the years since it's publication.  There are some rather graphic descriptions, foul language, and sexual content and parents and school officials at these high schools deemed these things "inappropriate"; they wanted this book removed.  The most obnoxious of these cases was in 2008 when school officials at New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY actually tore the "offensive" pages out of the school's copies of the book, then returning them to the students; all so that the students would not be exposed to this content while discussing the book in their (12th grade) English classes.

Censorship of books pisses me off, but this type of censorship makes my blood boil.  What right do those officials have to desecrate the work of an author?  Do they believe the author would have written those pages had she thought they were unimportant?  Would they break the penis off of the statue "David" by Michelangelo because of the nudity?  Censorship is a bad enough, but actual destruction of the person's work is disgusting and unacceptable.  Schools have a choice whether or not they want to teach a book; if they don't like the content, DON'T TEACH IT! 

Later that year, after much media attention and public outrage over the matter, the school board announced that they disagreed with censorship and replaced the school's copies of this book with new copies that included the pages.


I thought this book was excellent!  It is the riveting and poignant account of a girl who was institutionalized, at at the age of 18, fro mental illness. She talks about the year and a half she spent at McLean Hospital and the other young girls who shared this time with her.  What is so surprising is the lucidity with which she writes, giving us a very clear picture of her experiences.  This is because she was actually not mentally ill; she was a sullen, misguided teenager (actually shudder to think about how many of today's teens would be institutionalized if the standards for "mental illness" were the same).  It's true.  There are some graphic accounts, but they are nothing that the average high school aged  reader could not handle. 

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  Because mental illness is a rather heavy topic, I would recommend this to readers aged 14 and older (9th grade+).  The "objectionable" content is really probably okay for grades 7 or 8+, if it's read in context, but I think a slightly older reader would get more from this book.  I think it is a great option as a classroom book for high school English classes.

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway for the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop HERE**


  1. Thanks for an excellent review. It is scary to think how many girls would be institutionalized by that criteria.

  2. Wow, did not realize what this book was about. Off to add it to my wishlist.


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com


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