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I ((Heart)) Banned Books Week, starring the Top Ten Banned Books of 2009

From the American Library Association website:
Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.
The Top Ten Banned Books of 2009:
1. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs
2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide
4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
6. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
9. The Color Purple Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
10. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
I'm a little confused about the harmful effects of nudity in narrative form, but no more than I am confused by people who spend their time and energy trying to ban books. And people who think a realistic, non-threatening portrayal of a functional homosexual couple is somehow worse than war, the Saw movies, on-screen autopsies, and/or Judges 19...which might lend a modicum of perspective to ban-happy homophobes.


Edana said…
I must admit, I'm not upset in the least to see the Twilight series on this list. If they have to ban something, that does seem like the best choice!
jenny milchman said…
A really good way to teach that prejudice is a bad thing is to write a whole big list of things we mustn't have anything to do with. For some reason, this strikes me as...ironic.
I was interested to see that a number of these books were challenged because of age appropriateness. As a writer and reader, my knee-jerk reaction is to deplore any censorship. But as a trained school principal and elementary teacher, I have to say there are books that aren't right for, say, an elementary or primary library. Educators are legally charged with acting in loco parentis - in the place of the parent - and within reason, community standards have to be respected. As a teacher, I took sharp issue with individual parents demanding I not use a certain book with the whole class because it contained one or two curse words, honest depiction of racial prejudice, or (in the parents' view) promoted witchcraft (rolling eyes here.) But as a teacher, I've recommended a challenged book be pulled from general circulation shelves because its brutally-graphic "on-screen" depiction of acts of violent rape and torture, while not without a strong point, say, for more mature high school students, was way beyond the maturity level of that school's 10-12 year old population.

While it's less complicated to decry all "censorship" as something done by knuckle-dragging book burners, if the in loco parentis/community standards argument were completely tossed aside, all sorts of way-weird, agenda-driven stuff could potentially end up in primary level libraries.
Jerusha said…
I am inclined to agree with Colleen that some things aren't appropriate to put in, say, an elementary school library (although, I did read Lord of the Flies as a fifth grader and I turned out ok), but as for public libraries - where else can we go to get books? As much as I dislike Twilight, it is still a part of the marketplace of ideas and must be readily available to people somewhere. What is left in a library that doesn't have anything someone finds offensive? What does it say to the public if we take away part of that marketplace of ideas? What does it say to the people who find solace in these novels that make them feel just a little less different, a little less ashamed of who they are?
Very well put, Jerusha, and I agree with you about public libraries.

I remember finding things back in the day in my local library's card catalog which were not on the general shelves. You had to request them. Though they probably weren't meant for kids, I often did, and once the librarians recognized I was a serious reader (and unlikely to squeal to my parents and get them into trouble) they were quick to hand over whatever I wanted.

I don't know as there should be such restricted books nowadays. As long as they're in the adult or even teen sections, I think readers should have a more open access without fear of being judged.

Interestingly/frighteningly, did you know that your library record is open to the public. I knew a school administrator who wouldn't use the library for fear the local media in her Bible belt town would publicly examine the language and content of the suspense novels she loves. Come to think of it, there was a book choice-related part of the Patriot Act that raised a lot of hackles.

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