Banned book week is celebrated every year, for 2017 it’s the week of Sept. 25th. Books get challenged all the time for various reasons, sexual content, language, age appropriateness, and sometimes it’s simply because people flat out disagree with the book.
So why celebrate it?
We celebrate Banned Book Week to draw attention to the harm that censorship can do. According to the American Library Association “Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material … restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”
The ALA continues to explain that we celebrate the fact that even though books are challenged, most of them stay available due to the efforts of teachers, librarians and others who stand up for the freedom to read.
Some of the most challenged books are:
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1884 Challenged for language and allegations that the book is “racially insensitive,” and “perpetuates racism.”
- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, 1951 Young Holden, Often banned for being “obscene,” “blasphemous,” “negative,” “filthy,” and “undermines morality.”
- Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 1953 Challenged for language and objection of religious beliefs.
- The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939 Challenged for language—especially goddamn—and sexual references. Turkish Booksellers were taken to court for “spreading propaganda” in 1973.
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Challenged at the Baptist College in South Carolina because of the book’s language and mere references to sex.
- Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling Reasons: anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence.
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Looking at the banned or challenged books, you can see what society is struggling with. What some people can’t wrap their heads around and what others are fighting against. What does the top 10 list from 2016 say about us?
- This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
- George written by Alex Gino Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
- I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
- Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content “condones public displays of affection”
- Looking for Alaska written by John Green Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
- Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
- Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
- Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
- Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell Reason: challenged for offensive language
Feel free to share your thoughts on banned or challenged books; What do they say about us? Whats your favorite?
One thing has stayed pretty stable; As an author, having a book on the banned list is very good for your sales.