Category Archives: Banned/Challenged Books

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, or a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Well… I finished Ashes to Ashesthe final book in the  Burn for Burn trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I can’t comment on it yet. Let’s just say… It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a novel, and I’m still kind of traumatized. I also read Unlit Star by Lindy Zart, which came highly recommended and turned out to be a super emotional romance. Such a pretty cover, right? Now, I’m reading Cristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays and it is aMaZiNg. Totally twisty and romantic and unputdownable. I can’t wait to see how it wraps up!

  

What I’m Writing: Nothing! Where Poppies Bloom (which I finally wrote a summary for and posted HERE) is all revised and beautiful. It’s in my agent’s hands. I’m hoping she loves it! I’m celebrating by beta reading for some buddies, and musing my next WiP.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Watching movies… My family and I saw Dolphin Tale 2 (cute but cheesy — not as good as the first) and The Maze Runner (exciting and unpredictable — we really liked it!). Plus, my husband and I watched 12 Years a Slave, which was brutal. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll recover. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, but prepare yourself for heartbreak.


I’m keeping up with yoga, and I’m learning how to do inversions! I have never in my life tried to hold myself upside down, but I’m getting it. Don’t judge my form — I’m still practicing. Yay for progress! 🙂


I made my first pumpkin-y recipe of the season, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies. My husband: “These really do melt in your mouth.” 🙂

What Works For Me: This week I’m inspired by all of the excitement regarding intellectual freedom, diverse books, and Banned Books Week. I did a post on the topic HERE. Some of my favorite challenged/banned books? To Kill a Mockingbird, Speak, Looking for Alaska, Twenty Boy SummerThe Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the Harry Potter series. What are some of your favorite challenged/banned books?

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

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Banned Books Week

From BannedBooksWeek.orgBanned 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. 

As a writer of young adult fiction that’s intended 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 educate their children as they see fit, and to keep them from material they deem inappropriate. Librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians should not.

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.”

Vague and subjective, right? 

Most Challenged Books of 2013*:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey – Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison – Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James – Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age.
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins – Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky – Reasons: drugs/alcohol, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age.
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya – Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith – Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence.

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.

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 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, talk about, and recommend banned and challenged books.

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, as well as BannedBooksWeek.org. Please do visit these sites for more information.

Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week begins today…

From BannedBooksWeek.orgBanned 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 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported. 

As a writer of young adult fiction that’s intended 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 educate their children as they see fit, and to keep them from material they deem inappropriate. Librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians should not.

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 pretty vague and subjective, isn’t it? 

Most Challenged Books of 2012*:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey – Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James – Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit.
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson – Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group.
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini – Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green – Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwart – Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence.
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls – Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit.
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison – Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence.

And, a few Classics that have been challenged at one time or another*: The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Ryeby 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.

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 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, talk about, and recommend banned and challenged books. (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!)

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!

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.

RTW: If I were head of curriculum…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics – Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens – but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

First, there are several classics I’d most definitely keep on the list: Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Separate PeaceFahrenheit 451… These are all amazing books that (in my opinion) will always be relevant.

More contemporary books I’d add to the list if I were head of curriculum (blurbs from Goodreads):

Looking for Alaska by John Green – Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult – Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens–until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened before her very own eyes–or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show–destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie’s novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation’s school — and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school — in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems — all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniSet against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. This is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them. At once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship, it is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love, a stunning accomplishment.

These four books among my favorites. Not only are they highly entertaining, but they’re packed with emotional punch, history, memorable characters, and countless teachable themes. Sure, each and every one would probably end up challenged (they’re all incredibly intense and deal with mature issues), but  that’s even more reason to highlight them and expose teenagers to them. The books on MY reading list are sure to open the doors to some important and weighty dialogue.

If you had the power to change high school curriculum, what books would be on YOUR reading list?

RTW: October’s Wrap-Up and Book of the Month


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in October?

Wow… October was a month of aMaZiNg books! For the first time ever, I couldn’t choose just one Book of the Month. Nope, this month, I’m giving you TWO extraordinary recommendations–lucky you! But first, here’s my wrap-up:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. I’m not a Holden Caulfield fan, and I’ve heard Diary compared to The Catcher in the Rye more times that I can count. That said, I DID enjoy Diary, iimmensely. Junior’s narration was often funny, incredibly poignant, and, at times, heartbreaking. The comics and cartoons sprinkled throughout were a much appreciated surprise. I have no idea what it’s like to be an Indian living on a “rez,” but this book felt absolutely authentic.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – I snatched this middle grade novel up at the library after reading glowing recommendations from Kat Owens, Sara McClung, and Alicia Gregoire. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue what was going on throughout the first big chunk of the story. That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained; I totally was. Miranda and her accompanying characters were vivid and intriguing. Still, all of the cryptic clues and references to the future left my head spinning. But, I just had this feeling that sticking with it would pay off big. It SO did. I literally had chills throughout the last quarter of this book–the ending is that mind-blowing, that stunning. The day I returned When You Reach Me to the library, I went out and bought my own copy because I couldn’t NOT own it. If you’re not sure whether you like middle grade, read When You Reach Me. You will LOVE it!

Toxic by Jus Accardo – The follow-up to my CP’s debut, Touch, will be available Spring, 2012. I can’t give anything away, of course, but mark your calendars… it’s fantastic!

Hourglass by Myra McEntire – I loved this premise–time travel, the chance to change lives in the span of one hour. Main character Emerson was spunky and cool, though she sort of fell apart every time an attractive boy stepped onto the scene. The boys in the book were pretty hot though… certainly good distractions! I also dug the twisty ending and the atmospheric descriptions.

Teach Me by RA Nelson – Eek… Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I wasn’t sure about this one going in: High school senior has a sordid affair with her teacher, obsession and betrayal ensue. But, thanks to main character Carolina (and her majorly over-the-top shenanigans) I ended up enjoying Teach Me. Carolina is super smart and makes awesome observations about people and life, but she’s a social outcast among her peers. She somehow manages to garner sympathy even when making some questionable–okay, disturbing–choices. A well-written, compellingly honest contemporary.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laine Taylor – This book. Oh, THIS BOOK. Simply brilliant, and definitely one of my October Books of the Month. But, I’m not going to go into a full recommendation today because Smoke and Bone is the book we’ll be discussing for Fall Book Club. Check back Friday for my lovefest review.

And my second Book of the Month, Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins


From Goodreads: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I’d heard from more than one person that Lola was better than Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, which I absolutely loved. I sincerely doubted that anything could be better than Anna, but yeah… I have to say, I think I enjoyed Lola just a *tiny* bit more.

Seventeen-year-old Lola Nolan is an amazing protagonist. One of my favorites of any YA, I think. Lola is all kinds of conflicted. While she’s highly emotional, she’s also genuine and loving and unique and creative and funny. She has a humorous way of describing tough situations that lightened what was, essentially, a serious novel. And while Lola is a sweet girl, she’s not exactly a good girl. She’s self-centered. She lies. She sneaks around behind her parents’ backs. And that rocker boyfriend mentioned in the synopsis above? He’s twenty-two, and not exactly wholesome (he actually turns out to be slightly less-than-perfect, but he had his reasons and I have to say, I didn’t hate him). All of this discord within Lola’s personality made her delightfully real. She’s someone I wish I’d known in high school, someone I would have loved to be friends with.

And Cricket… what a perfectly lovable romantic interest. I see him as he’s pictured on the cover (adorable), and cherished every aspect of his sweet, highly intelligent, awkward, loyal, bumbling, pin-striped personality. He’s just right for Lola (obviously), yet he’s wonderfully flawed (like a real boy!). He knows what he wants, and while he’s full of conviction, he’s patient too. Plus, he’s friends with Etienne! I challenge any female reader to dodge to Cricket’s charms. Seriously. He’s enchanting.

Lola is set in San Francisco, which is probably obvious if you’ve given the cover a look. The city comes alive within the pages of the book, so much so that I want to visit again and take time to savor the atmosphere Stephanie Perkins so perfectly captures. All the major landmarks are there (the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Park), but there’s also a more subtle mood that hangs in the background, a sparkle that’s all San Francisco, yet not at all cliché or stereotypical.

And Lola‘s supporting characters… fabulous! Andy and Nathan (Lola’s dads) were distinct, strict, bona fide parental figures. Best friend Lindsey was an excellent source of comic relief. Calliope (Cricket’s twin) was an unpredictable sort of mean girl. Even Norah turned a corner and became someone I wasn’t expecting.

Lola, at its heart, is about finding your authentic self and embracing it for all it’s worth. A very worthwhile message weaved cleverly into a layered, entertaining story full of family and friendship and love. If you think you don’t like contemporary, or romance, or “chick-lit,” think again. Stephanie Perkins has a talent for creating real-life characters you’ll fall for head-over-heels, and for writing romantic scenes that’ll have your heart skipping. Please, please, please, buy and read Lola and the Boy Next Door!

What’s the best book YOU read in October? (And don’t forget to check back Friday for my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)

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.