Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011

What's your favorite book? Got one? Okay, good. Now imagine that because one person thought that book was offensive to them, it was removed from your local libraries-- school, public, and academic.  How does that feel?
 Banned Book Week is a week to celebrate all of the books that have been banned and challenged in the past. Censorship is a big issue in libraries, as librarians and library boards struggle to appease the angry people who think a book should be removed from a library due to its "offensive" nature, and their duty to provide all patrons the opportunity to read what they want to read. This year's Banned Book Week is going on now-- from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30th.

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Intellectual freedom is your right to access information and ideas, on any subject, from any writer, in any medium, regardless of content. Intellectual freedom, then, incorporates the ideals of free speech and free expression, which are listed in the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States of America. If writers and authors don't feel comfortable expressing their views for fear of being censored, or their books being banned, that prohibits our intellectual freedoms. If books are censored and banned, then that doesn't allow us to have the freedom to access ideas and information, and that prohibits our intellectual freedoms.

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The list of banned and challenged books will no doubt surprise you. Some of them might not. But whether or not a book is "appropriate" isn't the same to all people. My favorite quote about censorship is from the sharp-witted Mark Twain, who said:

“Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”
― Mark Twain

Does taking a book away from the public just because it offends one person make sense either? No.  

If you don't want to read something, then don't read it. But don't take away other people's rights to read it either. If you don't think your child should be reading something, then monitor what they read. Go to to check out the ratings, etc. on a book before you let them read it. Or create a rating on it yourself if you want to warn others.

 Banned and Challenged Books from This Year: 
Note: This is not a COMPLETE list. For the entire list, go here.
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  1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Contains a sex scene. When I saw this on there, I thought, "did I miss that part?", that's how significant the sex scene is.
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A perennial favorite on the banned book list-- because it is "soft pornography" and "glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Having just read this, I'll have you also know that it is a book about a girl's difficult freshman year of high school after she gets raped by an older boy at a party, and spends her first year in high school an outcast. But let me ask you, does rape "glorify premarital sex"? 
  3. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares. Banned because some of the characters have sex and drink a little.
  4.  Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Why? Because it includes sexual material and homosexual themes. ??? Again, I missed something here. 
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't know if you realize how big these books are right now. At our library, there are 92 holds on this book. Why was it challenged? It gave a woman's child (11 years old) nightmares, and could make kids insensitive to violence. 
  6. My Mom's Having a Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler. Why? Because it is inappropriate for children. Naturally, because telling them the truth about where children come from is absurd. 
  7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Why? Because this book about a boy with autism who tries to solve the mystery of a neighborhood dog's murder contains foul language.  I thought this book was wonderful, and again, this book doesn't stand out in my mind as being very linguistically offensive.
  8. The Koran. I'm sure you remember the news about Pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran earlier this year. If you don't, try this Washington Post article on the subject.
  9. Bone graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. Despite being hailed by Time as “best all-ages graphic novel ever published," this book was challenged by a parent because it contained some scenes of "smoking, drinking, and gambling".
  10. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Another book frequently on the banned books list. Why? Inappropriate language.

 For a list of the 100 most banned/challenged of the past decade, click here.

I'm sure it's no surprise that the Harry Potter series is at the top of this list, but maybe you want to check it out to see which Eric Carle book (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame) is on the list? I'm still confused as to the how and why of it... 

Why Books Are Banned/Challenged:

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1. Bill of Rights. U.S. Constitution, see
2. Quote about censorship by Mark Twain on 
3. Other quotes about censorship from
4. A great website for parents who want to see how appropriate a book, film, or video game is for their child-- with age-level recommendations and rating systems for violence, sex, and even good role models, you can use this to help select great new titles for your kids that won't offend.
5. Washington Post article on Pastor Terry Jones' burning of the Koran: 
5. For a complete list of the books banned/challenged from this year, go to 
6. For lists of books banned/challenged from previous years, go to:
7. For a list of books most frequently banned/challenged in the past decade, go here:
8. For more information about banned books, go to the ALA website about banned books week:


  1. It *kills* me that the reason "Speak" is banned is because of "soft pornography" -- constituting rape as "soft pornography" equates to glorifying rape itself, telling rapers that hey, it's like PORN. It glorifies rape, not premarital sex! Premarital sex seems to imply consent. *head explodes*

    My dad taught "Speak" for years as an English teacher before his school banned it (and my dad's a conservative person). I was horrified.

  2. (And when I say it glorifies rape, I don't mean that's what "Speak" does, I mean referring to the book as being soft porn glorifies rape)

  3. I know, I just about cried when I read the description of why it was banned. There's no way you could have actually read it and come away thinking that... My head exploded too.

  4. Excellent post! I have a feeling that the people requesting the bans never read the books in question. They might have skimmed through, found an objectionable passage and complained!