Sep 23, 2013
Mark your calendars and get out your reading glasses: September 22-28 is Banned Books Week! Read a banned book today!
For over thirty years, librarians, booksellers, teachers and readers have celebrated the right to read during this annual event. Banned Books Week draws attention to "efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books" and "draws national attention to the harms of censorship." (From The American Library Association's website, which has tons of great info about banned books.)
The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. The ALA put together Timeline: 30 Years of Liberating Literature that beautifully illustrates thirty years of books that have been banned and challenged.
Banned Books Week is particularly on our minds here in Minnesota. Have you read the young adult novel Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell? Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
According to a blog post on The Toast called A Chat With Rainbow Rowell About Love and Censorship, the Anoka-Hennepin school district was recently persuaded by a parents' group to cancel an upcoming visit by Rainbow Rowell, "calling Eleanor & Park a 'dangerously obscene' book, demanding that it be removed from library shelves and asking that school librarians be disciplined for choosing it."
In this conversation, Rainbow Rowell said:
"When these people call Eleanor & Park an obscene story, I feel like they’re saying that rising above your situation isn’t possible. That if you grow up in an ugly situation, your story isn’t even fit for good people’s ears. That ugly things cancel out everything beautiful."
See also NPR's Monkey See blog post True Love, Book Fights, And Why Ugly Stories Matter for another look at this situation.
What else is being challenged? ALA has a list of Books Challenged or Banned 2012-2013 which "represents books challenged, restricted, removed or banned" in those years. Here are a few from the list, along with a description of why they were challenged. (For more info on the full stories behind these challenges, check out the linked PDF above.)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Challenged "because some parents found the sexual references and profanity in the novel inappropriate for high school students."
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich - Challenged but retained "despite several residents and persons from outside the district calling the book 'faddish,' of 'no moral value,' and even 'obscene.'"
Feed by M.T. Anderson - Challenged "because the book is 'trash' and 'covered with the F-word.'"
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers - Challenged "because of inappropriate language."
The Family Book by Todd Parr - Banned "because of a line that reads 'some families have two moms or two dads.'"
Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor - Challenged, but retained "despite the principal's formal complaint against several 'very questionable pages' featuring a safe sex scene."
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel - Removed "because it was considered too racy for sophomores."
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Challenged "because the book is 'sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.'"
Can't get enough Banned Books? Check out ALA's Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century and celebrate your freedom to read today!