Banned Books Week
“Here you go. Just don’t let anyone know where you got it.”
My high school librarian was semi-joking as I checked out “Catch-22.” But she was semi-serious, too.
The Joseph Heller classic is on the list of frequently challenged books, and her words come back to me every year during Banned Books Week.
According to the American Library Association website, the World War II novel — which contains objectionable language — was banned in Strongsville, Ohio, in 1972, but the school board’s action was overturned by a district court ruling in 1976. It was also challenged in the Dallas Independent School District high school libraries in 1974 and in Snoqualmie, Wash., in 1979. No wonder my librarian was skittish.
This week is the 30th anniversary of the first Banned Books Week. The library association keeps track of books that have been banned as well as those that are challenged, which is defined as “an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.”
In addition to classic works (“The Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”), many of the books on the banned list are young adult fiction. The urge to protect children and teenagers from language, sexual situations and even witchcraft in books seems a little overwhelming. The Harry Potter series tops the list, but old favorites such as “Forever” and “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume continue to be challenged.
Open Road Media has created some wonderful interactive information in honor of Banned Books Week. There’s an interesting video featuring authors including Alice Walker, James Salter, and Joyce Maynard, among others. Open Road also created an interactive infographic showcasing 30 ebooks and the reasons why they were challenged, censored, banned, sued, or burned. They’re also doing a giveaway of all 30 ebooks that people can enter from that page.
To encourage people to read banned books, Open Road has a dedicated Scribd collection with free excerpts of every one of the 30 feature ebooks.
According to the American Library Association, the top 10 challenged/banned books for 2011 (out of 326 challenges) were:
- ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
- My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
- Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
- What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
- Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee Reasons: offensive language; racism