Banned Books Week: September 26 – October 3, 2009


Welcome to Banned Books Week, 2009! Celebrating the Freedom to Read!

For those that aren’t familiar with BBW, here are the basics.

From the American Library Association:

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals. Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of American literature.

What’s the difference between a challenge and a banning?

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Why should I care?

Although they were the targets of attempted bannings, most of the books featured during BBW were not banned, thanks to the efforts of librarians to maintain them in their collections. Imagine how many more books might be challenged—and possibly banned or restricted—if librarians, teachers, and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.

In 2008, out of the 513 challenges reported to the American Library Association, these were the top ten most challenged books:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

This has topped the list for the last three years. It’s based on the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park zoo who hatch an egg and raise a baby named Tango. It’s been banned because it’s “antifamily” and promotes homosexuality.

2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass takes place in a parallel universe ruled by a church theocracy called the Magisterium. The conflict between science and religion is a strong theme running through the book. It’s been banned for “political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence.” You can read Philip Pullman’s response here. Basically, he says he’s happy to be on the list because it means he will probably sell more books.

3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle

TTYL is the first book in the very popular Internet Girls series. It’s about three high school best friends and it’s written entirely in instant messages. It’s been banned for “offensive language” and being “sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.” Defenders say that the books tackle controversial subject matter but don’t glorify the negative behavior.

4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

This is a collection of scary stories about haunted houses, ghosts, vampires, etc. It’s been banned for: “occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence.”

5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya

This coming of age story about a young Hispanic boy in New Mexico has won awards and is on Laura Bush’s top ten reading list. It’s been banned for: “occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence.”

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about angsty Charlie, who observes more than participates at his high school. It’s been compared to The Catcher in the Rye, another frequently challenged book. It’s been banned for: “drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group.”

7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar

A blogger covers the lives of privileged teenagers at a private school in New York City. It’s been banned for: “offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.”

8. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen

Chloe’s Uncle Bobby is getting married to another male guinea pig and she worries he won’t have time for her anymore. It’s been banned for: “homosexuality and unsuited to age group.” Go here to read one library’s defense for keeping it in their collection. It’s the most rational, polite reply I’ve ever seen.

9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner is about two boys growing up in Afghanistan, one is the son of a wealthy businessman, and the other is the son of his servant. It’s been banned for “offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.”

10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper

A middle school aged girl obsesses about boys and fights with her friends. It’s been banned for being “sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.”

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