Challenged Book Spotlight: Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate was first published in Spanish in 1989 and was the first novel from Laura Esquival, a Mexican screenwriter. The English translation was published, to great acclaim, by Doubleday in 1992. The novel also inspired the Spanish-language film, directed by Esquival's husband, of the same name and enjoyed immense success in the U.S. with English subtitles.

Set in turn-of-the-century Mexico, this romantic, earthy, and poignant story, touched with bittersweet moments of magic and sensuality, celebrates food and passion. As the youngest daughter in a traditional Mexican family led by a tyrannical rancher, Tita de la Garza is bound by tradition to remain unmarried so that she can care for her mother in old age. What follows after Tita falls in love is a lively, funny tale filled with irony, wit, magic, realism, and folklore, as Tita struggles to be true both to family tradition and her own heart.
Random House, Inc.
In 2004, the parents of an Arrowhead High School student in Merton, Wisconsin challenged the books presence on an elective reading list -- for which students had to obtain a parent's signature in order to participate -- on the grounds that the book contained "sexually explicit and inappropriate material." The complaint was filed in March of 2004 and, interestingly, originally centered around a different book entirely. But after an internal staff review dismissed the complaint, the parents filed an appeal that requested several other books, including Like Water for Chocolate, be removed as well. The appeal went to the Arrowhead School Board who voted to form a committee to review the books in question. The parent in question was quoted as saying
“When you’re a parent, there’s a level of trust when you send your kids to school,” Krueger said. “I don’t expect things to be given to them at school that I wouldn’t give them at home. I think it’s abusing the basis of trust that parents have.”
Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom
Although I could not find the decision of the School Board recorded anywhere, I think we can safely assume the challenge was ultimately defeated, since Like Water for Chocolate remains on the Arrowhead College Bound Reading List.

Relevant article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A follow up article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


  1. In retrospect, I guess there were some moderately sexually explicit parts, but I would never have thought that this book had been challenged. We read it - and watched the movie - in my high school Spanish class with nary a second thought. Amazing, the things that upset some people.

  2. Interesting... It doesn't really sound as bad as I know some books are. I have never read it and I still don't think it probably was a explicit as the parent thought.

  3. I loved this book for its story, but also its set up as a cookery book. I loved the film too. I find it strange that it was banned although I can think of one scene that has some, possibly mild sexual content. However, a lovely book! Thanks for providing the explaination as to why it is on the banned books list.


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