The American Library Association promotes awareness of attempted challenges to books in public, school and some other libraries each year with Banned Books Week. 2017’s week begins today.
Different parts of me react differently to this week, to the challenges to books and to the reasons they are challenged. As a parent, I have never asked that a book be “banned” (usually, but not always, this means banned from being used as a classroom assignment), but on two occasions–one with each child, I did ask that my child be assigned a different book due to very real concerns from their past life before adoption. In both cases my request was honored without any hesitation. My child, in both cases, was sent next door and give then book that class was reading–a book of completely different tone and topic.
As a parent, I haven’t always liked the books assigned, but when I trusted the teacher to know what he or she was doing it came out fine every time. [Well, ok, that teacher who assigned all 3 Hunger Games books instead of Shakespeare and Steinbeck got an F from me, but my kid survived.] My kids both have favorites from among those books that raised eyebrows. Happily, the teachers also assigned several books I really wanted my kids to read.
As a librarian it is more problematic. I remember the megachurch that came to my public library and weekly checked out much of the children’s section to use as school library books. Since each child qualified by residence for a library card this wasn’t the issue. Every few weeks a new parent volunteer would check out, politely and appropriately, one certain book (the same one). Then the book would be reported to us as “lost” along and at the same time a check for the amount of the replacement and the appropriate form, neatly typed were handed over. As a well-organized and peaceful protest I could admire this. As a librarian meeting the needs of the ENTIRE community it got really, really old. But we did not stop them and we did not put the book behind the counter or in the adult area because other families had no complaints.
Today I’m a lot older but still see public libraries as representing the entire community. I doubt any church today would object to that one book. There are so many today that upset people on any side of any issue today. But today it is more important than every to LISTEN to and RESPECT each other. We need to pull together, not allow ourselves to be divided.
That’s a very long way to say, I support Banned Books Week. This year I’m reading, and thoroughly enjoying, a commonly challenged young adult book. I’ll be reviewing it, I hope, on Thursday or next week at the latest (my week is unusual this week and that will affect my reading time). Intellectual Freedom is something so precious we cannot afford to lose it.
Top Ten for 2016
Out of 323 challenges recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
- This One Summer written 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
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
- George written by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels”
- I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
- Two Boys Kissing written 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
- Looking for Alaska written by John Green
Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”
- Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
- Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive”
- Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
- Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
Reason: challenged for offensive language
I have read, and loved, Looking for Alaska. The Little Bill series has nothing to do with the author’s alleged crimes–the series was even an Oprah Book Club choice. A book from this list is the 2nd Banned or Challenged book I will be deliberately reading this Fall.