Banned Books Week

banned booksFor those who might not have been aware, this week, September 23-29, is Banned Books Week.  Because I seem to have slipped back into the rabbit hole and cannot bring myself to write about any of the detritus swirling about in cyberspace today, I am instead writing about Banned Books Week.

What the heck, you ask, is Banned Books Week? According to the American Library Association

Banned Books Week 2018 is September 23-29. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restricted in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the ALA website.

Let’s take a look at the Top Ten Most Challenged Books for 2017 …

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. George written by Alex Gino
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug useprofanity, and offensive language.
  9. And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.

I have read two of the books on this list, The Kite Runner and To Kill A Mockingbird.  Given that the majority of the books on the list are children’s books or YA (young adult), I have no real interest in reading those, but I do have some observations about the list.

No less than four of the ten books on this list are considered dangerous because they either address LGBT issues or contain an LGBT character or relationship.  Come on … it is the 21st century, we have come out of the dark ages!  If I still had a small child at home, you can bet I would be on Amazon right now ordering And Tango Makes Three!

As I said, I read The Kite Runner, and when I reached the end, I neither became a terrorist nor did I feel drawn to convert to Islam.  Who thinks up these things?  Wait … let me guess … white supremacist, heterosexual, male evangelicals.

banned books-3Thirteen Reasons Why has been challenged and banned for discussing suicide.  Well, guess what folks?  Not discussing something doesn’t make it go away!  Suicide among teens is a very real concern, for the teen years are a time of transition, a time when hormones are going crazy and life is confusing.  It happens.  Kids kill themselves.  Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away!  Parents rarely talk to their kids about suicide, fearing that an open, frank discussion might put the idea into their head.  Perhaps this book is just the ticket for giving kids a better grasp of how to deal with their problems, what to do when they feel there is no other way out.

And by the way … regarding #6 on the list … how does discussing sex with a child, “make them want to have sex”?  Isn’t that an idea that went out in the 19th century?  Methinks some people need to grow up … or perhaps evolve?

I was looking back through the past several years of banned or challenged books, and the 2013 list brought a bit of jaw-dropping mirth.  Here are the ones that made me roll my eyes or chuckle:

  • Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
  • Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (This one was banned because of ‘religious viewpoint’. Grrrrrrrrrrr)

A final observation.  Looking at these lists, and the reasons that specific books are challenged or outright banned goes a long way toward explaining the bigotry, particularly against the LGBT community, that we are seeing come out of the woodwork today.  A child who is shielded from all those who are slightly different in one way or another, whether the difference is skin colour, religion or sexual orientation, grows to adulthood without an understanding that it’s okay to be different.  I’m glad I took a few minutes to look into Banned Books Week, for I hadn’t previously given it much thought, and awareness is key.banned books-4

16 thoughts on “Banned Books Week

  1. Catcher in the Rye and 1984 are my two favorites to be required reading, along with Where the Sidewalk Ends. Should we consider Lord of the Flies? The current list is so far removed from my reading, except for The Kite Runner. I am still trapped in the past, when books were burned in the school yard of Drake, North Dakota, books like Huckleberry Finn… Or, God help us, that wonderful I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both of those are among my faves also! I read Catcher in the Rye when I was 10 years old … didn’t understand half of it, but read it anyway! And I’ve recently re-read 1984, as has half the nation, judging by the display at Barnes & Noble! The only one you mention that I have not read, and in fact have not even heard of, is I Am The Cheese!

      I looked up the Drake book burning … and that was only in 1973! I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Curiosity bids me ask…how did you come upon Banned Books Week? From time to time, or year to year actually, I like to check to see what & why a book is banned. I sometimes will deliberately read one that is banned…that is about as risque as it gets for me these days! On this list I have read Thirteen Reasons Why, The Kite Runner, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hate U Give. I often will read a YA book, it interests me to know what young people are reading about and why. It was a habit that I developed when my daughters were young, I wanted to know more about what they chose to read than simply the title. It often led to great discussions about the contents of a book from our different perspectives. Captain Underpants, whether banned or approved, is not on my list of books to be read. Thank-you!

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    • I came across an article about it in The Washington Post yesterday, and realized that I had not even been aware there was such a week! So, of course I needed to know more. When my children were young, I did the same … always at least read part of whatever they were reading, and we have always had “Family reading night” where we read books together. Miss Goose and I still read together a few nights a week … it’s a great way to spend time together. I’m like you … tell me something is banned, and I will make sure to read it! Always been a rebel! Ha ha … Natasha (aka Miss Goose) and I read some of the Captain Underpants series together when she was much younger, and I found it to be quite fun! Remember to not judge a book by its cover … or title. 😀


      • I’m judging the book by the DreamWorks 2017 movie and now the show on Netflix…Benjamin is not interested, but his 5 yr. old best friend loves it. Potty humor does not entertain me. Fifty Shades of Grey was loved by my eldest daughter, but I was never interested in reading that series either. Thankfully, I don’t feel the need to know what her reading material contains anymore!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I share your sentiments completely on Fifty Shades … no thanks! I didn’t know they had turned Captain Underpants into a movie and a tv series! Dave Pilkey is just funny, I think … I can overlook the potty humour, for it isn’t really that pervasive. But he’s written some other books too. And when Benjamin is a bit older — 12 or so — be sure to get him the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans … nothing vulgar at all, but very adventurous, fun series of books. Natasha and I both adored them!


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