Literature

Why Banned Books Matter in 2017

Because Trump is president and our civil liberties are under threat!

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) promotes awareness of challenges to library materials and celebrates freedom of speech during Banned Books Week, which took place this year September 24 – September 30.  Here are the top ten most challenged books as reported in the media and submitted to ALA by librarians and teachers across the country in 2016.

Top Ten for 2016

Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom

  1. This One Summer 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
  2. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
  4. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing  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
  6. Looking for Alaska  by John Green
    Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language

A People Speak in 2017

I just started re-reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for a book discussion series happening at my local library soon.  This is one of those types of books everyone has in their personal library but never gets around to reading because it is so long – nearly 800 pages!  This book discussion series is meant to get people to not only read but really think about how the book relates to issues going on in America today.  According to Zinn, American history is to a large extent the exploitation of the majority by an elite minority.

Zinn has left a great literary masterpiece behind for the rest of us to enjoy!

8 Steps To All-Inclusive Reading

We Need Diverse BooksI have written a lot here about the need to have more books in classrooms today that reflect the changing cultural diversity in America.  According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, out of 3,500 children’s books in schools surveyed in 2014, only 180 were about black people.  The numbers are even worse for books about Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

I attended this wonderful panel discussion at the Harlem Book Fair a couple of weeks ago that brought together diverse writers and publishers to discuss how to change this. They all agreed that multicultural literature is the future, and as one panelist said “If we are going to be an inclusive society, we need diverse books.”

Stacy Whitman of the famed multicultural publisher, Lee and Low Books, gave out this great list of ways to make reading more inclusive:

  1. Does your book list or collection include books with characters of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  2. Does it include books with a main character of color? LGBTQ? Differently-abled?
  3. Does it include books written or illustrated by a person of color? Of different nationalities, religions or sexual preference?
  4. Are there any books with a person of color on the cover? Do the characters on the book covers accurately reflect the characters in the book?
  5. Think about your student population. Does your list provide a mix of “mirror” books and “window” books for your students—books in which they can see themselves reflected and books in which they can learn about others?
  6. Think about the subject matter of your diverse books. Do all your books featuring black characters focus on slavery? Do all your books about Latino characters focus on immigration? Are all your LGBTQ books coming out stories?
  7. Do you have any books featuring diverse characters that are not primarily about race or prejudice?
  8. Consider your classic books, both fiction and nonfiction. Do any contain hurtful racial or ethnic stereotypes, or images (e.g. Little House on the Prairie or The Indian in the Cupboard? If so, how will you address those stereotypes with students? Have you included another book that provides a more accurate depiction of the same culture?

I think this is a great list that all librarians and educators should seriously consider when selecting future books!  I also found this video that is helpful.