Spotlight on Censorship: ‘Make Something Up’

ALA Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books, Banned and Challenged Books, Censorship, National Library Week

By: Ellie Diaz and Kristin Pekoll

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread, by Chuck PalahniukChuck Palahniuk author of Fight Club and Choke is notorious for pushing boundaries with his writing.

In Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread, the author supplies 21 short stories and one novella that “disturbs and delights in equal measure,” according to the publisher. It’s the “disturbing” parts that some library patrons thought no one should read.

author Chuck Palahniuk
Photo credit:, Allan Amato

Make Something Up ranked No. 8 on the ALA’s list of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016, due to profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”

As a self-described transgressive fiction author, Palahniuk pushes the envelope of what’s expected and accepted. Transgressive fiction authors write stories others are afraid to tell, such as taboo subjects, unique voices and shocking images, according to Titan Books. In Make Something Up, Palahniuk’s stories feature characters drenched in urine, placenta-eating pets and sexual reorientation camps.

“There are people out there who will not read books, but somehow they’ll read my books,” Palahniuk told The Guardian in 2005. “They serve them in a way most fiction doesn’t. I give them a less filtered form of entertainment. I acknowledge some unacknowledged parts of our lives, which, as a culture, we don’t tend to talk about.”

Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read, 2014 Edition Robert P. Doyle
Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read, 2014 Edition Robert P. Doyle

The censorship reports about the challenges to Make Something Up are marked confidential. Some librarians and educators fear losing their jobs if a challenge receives national attention.

But other novels by the author faced public challenges.

In 2005, Choke was challenged in Fayetteville High School library in Arkansas, along with more than 50 other books. The complainant cited that the books were “too sexually explicit” and they were “promoting homosexuality.” In 2011, Turkish translators and publishers were charged with distributing translated, obscene material. Along with Palahniuk’s Snuff, the translators and publishers also were charged with distributing William Burroughs’ The Soft Machine and Guillaume Apollinaire’s The Exploits of a Young Don Juan. The publishing houses responded by publishing more works by Palahniuk and Burroughs. A year later, Fight Club was removed from Katy (Texas) Independent School District’s required reading list because of the book’s violence.

Palahniuk alludes to censorship in one of his other books, Lullaby.

“Imagine books and music and movies being filtered and homogenized. Certified. Approved for consumption. People will be happy to give up most of their culture for the assurance that the tiny bit that comes through is safe and clean. White noise.”


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