Banned Books Week

September 28, 2010

American Library Association's Banned Books Week Poster 2010

Imagine walking into your favorite bookstore or library and finding certain titles- Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Judy Blume’s  “Forever”, J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, just to name a few- missing from the shelves not because of budget cuts or any financial reasons but because they were banned.

Scary thought, right?

In these modern times we live in, you wouldn’t think literary censorship still occurs. But it does. Only recently in Stockton, Missouri, Sherman Alexie’s Young Adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” was removed from schools citing objectionable language and sexual content. In Texas, Ellen Hopkins was uninvited from the Teen Lit Festival because her novels tackled topics that were deemed age inappropriate.

Due to language, violence, sex, the topic itself, or even just a different viewpoint, lots of people will find something unacceptable in many books. That’s fine. Unfortunately, there are also people that band together to demand these types of books be banned from schools, libraries and bookstores. That’s not fine. They may have the best intentions but if their challenges result in actual banning, others are denied the opportunity of reading the books and forming their own opinions.

Banned Books Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of this issue and to make sure censorship doesn’t occur. It’s a constant battle and not always successful. As readers, we have to do our part. Back in Texas, with the whole Ellen Hopkins controversy, several authors who were slated to appear at the Teen Lit Festival withdrew to show support. The event has since been cancelled.

BannedBooksWeek.org is a great resource to find more information in regards to its history and purpose, actions on what’s being done to combat literary censorship, and lists of banned and challenged books.

Share your thoughts with us on your favorite banned books and celebrate your freedom to read!

One thought on “Banned Books Week

  1. Tom

    Hi Earl,

    Great Post. I thought you might want to hear about one of my favorite banned books. Here is a quick review:

    His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

    The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass are the three books that make up this trilogy by Philip Pullman. Right off the bat I am going to tell you that this series starts strong and finishes weak; I would rate the books “Great”, “Good”, and “OK” respectively. The story takes place in an alternate reality where peoples’ souls reside outside of their body and takes the form of a companion animal that has the ability to speak. In the first book in the series, poor children start disappearing from the streets of a major city and no one is really caring or doing anything about it until Lyra, the naïve and privileged main character, best friend disappears one day. Lyra then goes on a quest to find the missing children. Slight Spoiler Alert! Eventually she discovers that these street children have become the subjects of cruel experiments with the intent of separating them from their companion animals, their souls. The goal of the de-souling is to free these children from an idea that is analogous to Original Sin.

    It is easy to see how the content could make parents of children reading these books uneasy:
    • Blatant cruelty and violence to children
    • Blatant cruelty and violence to animals
    • European explorers exploiting native people using alcohol and addiction
    • The idea that church officials don’t always have the best intentions
    • Graphic fighting and warfare
    • Not to inherently trust adults, even your own parents
    • Coming of age, puberty discussions
    • Implied, but subtle homosexuality

    It is written at an 8th and 9th grade level so it is very accessible and a quick, easily digestible read. The books make you think in new ways and is a good adventure. Overall, I recommend the His Dark Materials trilogy.

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