Banned Books Week

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

Why You Should Support Freedom of Information

Read Banned BooksI was having a casual conversation the other day with a client about censorship in his home country of China.  He told me that among many, many things banned in the communist country, he said that he had never heard of Alice in Wonderland until he moved to England to attend college.  The Hunan province in China actually banned the classic children’s book because “animals should not use human language, and that it was disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”

My first thought was to go into my usual rant about how oppressive China is and how free and lucky I am to be in the United States.  And, trust me, America does a better job of supporting free speech than most other countries in the world.  However, even in the land of the free, this country has its own censorship issues.

This is why we still need Banned Books Week.  

This week free speech advocates are highlighting books that have been challenged or banned in schools and public libraries around the United States.  The goal is to expose readers to literature that present different ideas and perspectives, even if those ideas and perspectives are contrary to their own beliefs.

According to the American Library Association, there were 311 reported attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves during the 2014-2015 school year.  As a journalist, author, blogger and publisher, I have always been a strong supporter of free expression.  Furthermore, exploring literature from different perspectives give us a more well-rounded understanding of the world and it makes us better people.

Here is a list of the top 10 books that were challenged or banned in 2014.  I hope you will choose to read one or more of them!

1) “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2) “Persepolis,” by Marjane Satrapi

Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3) “And Tango Makes Three,” Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4) “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”

6) “Saga,” by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:

7) “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9) “A Stolen Life,” Jaycee Dugard

Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10) “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: sexually explicit  

There are dozens of other books that have been banned or challenged over the last two decades. You can find the full lists here.

Learn more about Banned Books Week here.