We're Still Banning Books?
September 23, 2013
Sadly, no, banning books is not something relegated to the 1500s or the Nazis. Every year, we celebrate Banned Books Weeks (Sept. 22-28th) to bring awareness about the fact that books are still being challenged all the time, all over the world. The Office of Intellectual Freedom, run by the American Library Association, keeps track of all the challenges throughout the year and puts out a list of the most challenged titles for each year. The list for this year may surprise you:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
|Moore, Alan Neonomicon|
|Anderson, M.T. Feed||Morrison, Toni Beloved|
|Atwood, Margaret The Handmaid's Tale||Myers, Walter Dean Fallen Angels|
|Aylisli, Akram Stone Dreams||Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds Intensely Alice|
|Brannen, Sarah S. Uncle Bobby's Wedding||Othman, Norani, ed.
Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism
|Card, Orson Scott Ender's Game||Palahniuk, Chuck Fight Club|
|Chbosky, Stephen The Perks of Being a Wallflower||Parr, Todd The Family Book|
|Colasanti, Susane When It Happens||Pelzer, Dave A Child Called It|
|Connell, Richard The Most Dangerous Game||Plum-Ucci, Carol The Body of Christopher Creed|
|Crawford, Brent Carter Finally Gets It||Polacco, Patricia In Our Mothers' House|
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
|Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell
And Tango Makes Three
|Esquivel, Laura Like Water for Chocolate||Satrapi, Marjane Persepolis|
|Green, John Looking for Alaska||Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet|
|Herge, (Georges Remi) Tintin in the Congo||Sittenfeld, Curtis Prep|
|Hosseini, Khaled The Kite Runner||Smiley, Jane A Thousand Acres|
|Howe, James Totally Joe||Swift, Graham Waterland|
|Ignatow, Amy The Popularity Papers||Tateno, Makoto Hero-Heel 2|
|James, E.L. Fifty Shades of Grey||Timberlake, Amy The Dirty Cowboy|
|King, Stephen Different Seasons||Trueman, Terry Stuck in Neutral|
|Loux, Matthew SideScrollers||Walls, Jeannette The Glass Castle|
|Manji, Irshad Allah, Liberty, and Love||Wilson, David Howard Robopocalypse|
|Martinez, Elizabeth 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures||Wolfe, Tom The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test|
"The challenges documented in this list are not brought by people merely expressing a point of view; rather, they represent requests to remove materials from schools or libraries, thus restricting access to them by others. Even when the eventual outcome allows the book to stay on the library shelves and even when the person is a lone protester, the censorship attempt is real. Someone has tried to restrict another person’s ability to choose. Challenges are as important to document as actual bannings, in which a book is removed from the shelves of a library or bookstore or from the curriculum at a school. Attempts to censor can lead to voluntary restriction of expression by those who seek to avoid controversy; in these cases, material may not be published at all or may not be purchased by a bookstore, library, or school district." (Doyle pg. 3, 2013).
Think this isn't that bad? "Surveys indicate up to 85 percent of actual challenges to library materials receive no media attention and remain unreported," (Doyle pg. 3). We made a pretty cool bulletin board to promote Banned Books Week at my branch, and my teens helped out. I told them they could write whatever they wanted, as long as they understood that the majority of their words would be blacked out. One of my teens was kind of upset with the final outcome. He didn't understand why I covered up his poem. "You only left the unimportant words!"
That's kind of the point...censorship chooses what you can and can't read. What he wrote was pretty cool, and I felt really lucky to have gotten the chance to read it, but think of all the people who walk past the bulletin board who won't get that chance. He said, "But banning a book doesn't really keep people from reading books, right? They can just go buy it." The truth is that if they aren't required to read it for school, most kids don't read on their own. I'm the librarian, and even I know that! Life is hectic. People don't always get the chance to read what they want.
I want to be clear: I support parents having a say in what their children read. I don't support being able to ban what an entire school, library, or town gets to read. Taking another look at that list up there, you'll see a lot of those books have won awards. The list of historically banned books is the same way. So think for yourself, discover what you're missing, read a banned book. You'll be glad you did. Who knew being a rebel could be so informative?
South Independence Branch
PS: Want to know why each of these books were banned or challenged? Check out the link below.
Doyle, Richard. "Yearly Lists of Challenged And/or Banned Books." American Library Association. Newsletter of Intellectual Freedom, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013. <http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/freedownloads#lists>.Tags: banned books