Book List: Banned Books Week

With a tagline like ‘celebrating the freedom to read’ is it no wonder is a favourite?

For thirty years banned book week been reporting on book censorship in America.

Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.

In 2011, the 10 most challenged books were:

ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

ttyl is a constant stream of IM chat, email and texts between three friends ‘SnowAngel’, ‘zoegirl’ and ‘madmaddie’. It’s a little of a shock to read as the language is expressed in a short hand that seems impossible, yet is a reflection of how teens are interacting online, and the topics discussed break the barriers of ‘polite’ conversation.

The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

A graphic novel that explores a daughter’s relationship with her mother, and the social ramifications of being a ‘single’ mother in Korea. The minimal nudity and implied sexual acts pales in comparison to the lyric-like qualities in the writing and the strength of the mother-daughter relationship.

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

A very popular series that has encouraged many ‘non-readers’ to open up it’s pages and delve into a world of action, adventure and romance. I find it interesting that in it’s ‘book’ format, The Hunger Games finds itself on the 10 most challenged book lists. In ‘movie’ format, it finds itself the number one box hit of 2012. This implies to me that there are two standards when a story is told. When in a movie format, the level of ‘violence’ is more readily accepted then in a book format.

My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

A children’s picture book that describes the experiences of Elizabeth, a soon to be older sibling as her mother goes through pregnancy. There is language about the human body, reproduction and child development. Some of the language, such as sperm, has caused parents to ask for the book to be banned from their libraries.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

Alexie chose to respond in the Wall Street Journal, in 2011, about the push to ban his book due to it’s content.

“I have yet to receive a letter from a child somehow debilitated by the domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, poverty, sexuality, and murder contained in my book. To the contrary, kids as young as ten have sent me autobiographical letters written in crayon, complete with drawings inspired by my book, that are just as dark, terrifying, and redemptive as anything I’ve ever read.”

With books that deal with such strong issues it can be quite confronting and distressing for some. When that is balanced against the children it has managed to reach because they know the same type of pain or humiliation or depression and find solace in knowing that they are not alone, then you need to make that book accessible to them.

Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

A twenty-four strong series that explores the world through the eyes of Alice, who is on the cusp of becoming a teenager. There are cringe worthy moments of embarrassment, new friends, new love interests and a role model or two.

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

When a book is 81 years old and still in-print, I find it shocking that people would still wish to ban it. It’s not longer just a work or fiction, but part of the history of fiction.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

Another of those lighter books that explores being a teenage girl and all that entails. I’m extremely disappointed (although not surprised) that nearly all the books on this list involve women protagonists. It feels like we’re continuing a 1950’s women belong in the kitchen mentality. I have to question why women aren’t allowed to explore their sexuality and men are.

Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

Another book that has made itself onto the (not as) big screen. As a weekly television show for CW it sees millions of viewers. As a book it sees itself in the number 9 position for most banned books in 2011. Too rich teenagers, drugs, drinking and sexual encounters. It looks at it all.

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

New rule; if a book has been in-print for 52 years, it also shouldn’t find itself on the most challenged book list. When complaints are made that To Kill a Mockingbird should be censored because of ‘racism’ I’m unnerved by the lack of comprehension of social commentary and injustice. When a book chooses to hold a mirror up to the law to demonstrate the social inequity that was part of American history… well I’m on board with that book.


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