Tag Archives: Banned Books

Banned Books Week

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week!

From BannedBooksWeek.org: Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. According to the American Library Association, there were 326 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2011, and many more go unreported. 

As a writer of young adult fiction that might be considered “edgy” or for an “older teen audience,” book censorship is an issue that hits close to home.

Books are most often challenged by people and groups who, at their core, have the best of intentions: To protect children from explicit and/or difficult material. Still, censorship in any form is wrong. Parents have every right and responsibility to keep their children from material they deem inappropriate; librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians should not.

banned books week

Still, year after year, people and groups continue to challenge books, most often for the following reasons*:

1. The material is considered to be “sexually explicit.”

2. The material contains “offensive language.”

3. The material is “unsuited to any age group.”

It’s all very vague and subjective, isn’t it? 

2011′s list of Most Challenged Books*:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
    Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
  4. 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
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
    Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language; racism

And, a few Classics that have been challenged at one time or another*: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, Ulysses, by James Joyce, Beloved, by Toni Morrison, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, and 1984, by George Orwell.

Banned books

So… How can we stand up to book challengers?

1. By defending our right to intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. We can talk about the danger of restraining the availability of information in our free society.

2. We can voice the importance of the First Amendment and (especially) the power of literature.

3. We can support librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to who fight to keep “inappropriate” books in library and school collections.

4. We can continue to buy, borrow, loan, read, and recommend banned and challenged books. (Read Twenty Boy Summer and Speak and To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hunger Games and The Grapes of Wrath and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian!)

Happy Banned Books Week!

Tell me: What’s your favorite banned book? And, how will you celebrate Banned Books Week?

*Statistics and lists borrowed from the American Library Association’s Banned and Challenged Books page. Please do visit the ALA’s site for more information.

Banned Books Week…

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week. As a writer of young adult fiction that might be considered “edgy” or for an “older teen audience,” this is an issue that hits incredibly close to home.

Books are most often challenged by people and groups who, at their core, have the best of intentions: To protect children from explicit and/or difficult material. Still, censorship in any form is wrong. Parents have the right and responsibility to keep their children from material they deem inappropriate; librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians do not.

On a personal note:

I am not exactly a restrictive parent. Granted, my daughter is only four, but I’ve never been one to keep her from things other parents might find unsavory. I have friends who won’t let their kids see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs because “it’s scary.” Yeah… my daughter has watched (and enjoyed) The Walking Dead. In fact, my husband and I used her questions about zombies as a weird sort of teaching moment. Zombies aren’t real… they’re just pretend… those creepers are just regular people wearing crazy make-up.

That said, there are lots (lots!) of things my daughter isn’t ready for. For example, she recently asked me to read her the first Harry Potter book (bless her heart! She’s well aware of how much her mommy loves it!), and I had to explain to her that she’s not old enough for such a story. I don’t doubt that she’d understand the basic good vs. evil concept (she’s seen every Disney movie ever made; heroes and villains are very much a part of her vocabulary), but I’m not ready to expose her to some of Harry‘s darker story lines, particularly the one about his mother sacrificing her life for the love of her child. A little too intense for a four-year-old, I think.

When I am ready to read her Harry Potter, and later, when she’s reading Newbery Honorees and–way down the road–YA fiction, my husband and I intend to use those stories to begin discussions about difficult topics. And why not? Parenting is hard enough without reinventing the wheel. If there’s great literature out there that’ll open up the lines of communication, I intend to use it.

Still, year after year, people and groups continue to challenge books, most often for the following reasons*:

1. The material was considered to be “sexually explicit.”

2. The material contained “offensive language.”

3. The material was “unsuited to any age group.”

2010′s list of Most Challenged Books*:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
  4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
  6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
    Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
    Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
    Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
  9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
    Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit
  10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence
And, a few of the Classics that have been challenged at one time or another*: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, Ulysses, by James Joyce, Beloved, by Toni Morrison, The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, and 1984, by George Orwell.

How can we stand up to book challengers?

1. By defending our right to intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. We can talk about the danger of restraining the availability of information in our free society.

2. We can voice the importance of the First Amendment and (especially) the power of literature.

3. We can support librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to who fight to keep “inappropriate” books in library and school collections.

4. We can continue to buy, borrow, loan, read, and recommend banned and challenged books. (Read Twenty Boy Summer! Read Speak! Read To Kill a Mockingbird! Read The Hunger Games! Read The Grapes of Wrath!)


Now, excuse me while I hop down from my soapbox. I want to go read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

How will you celebrate Banned Books Week?

*Statistics and lists borrowed from the American Library Association’s Banned and Challenged Books page. Please do visit the ALA’s site for more information.