Sunday, October 5, 2008

Banned Book Week

I think I made my feelings on the topic of book banning pretty clear in the past when the news first broke of US vice president candidate Sarah Palin's attempts to ban books.

Yet it seems Ms Palin's antics are not an isolated case.

Every year hundreds of books are challenged throughout the states by people claiming the books are too sexual or too violent; they object to profanity and slang, and protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups or positive portrayals of homosexuals.

Their targets range from books that explore the latest problems to classic and beloved works of literature.

During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the US draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.

The 2008 celebration of Banned Books Week was held from September 27 to October 4.

Banned Books Week is the only US wide celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.

More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982.

According to the American Library Association, in 2007 alone more than 400 books were challenged.

The top ten are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Yet best selling author Philip Pullman has revealed he was delighted to discover his novel Northern Lights was one of the most "challenged" titles of the year in America, with numerous calls made to have it removed from libraries.

Pullman's children's novel, which is sold as The Golden Compass in the US, was the fourth most challenged book in 2007, according to the American Library Association, and received 420 formally submitted complaints to libraries or schools over "inappropriate content and subject matter" last year.

"Firstly, I had obviously annoyed a lot of censorious people, and secondly, any ban would provoke interested readers to move from the library, where they couldn't get hold of my novel, to the bookshops, where they could," Pullman said, pointing to previous objections to the film of The Golden Compass, which he said resulted in soaring book sales.


So what do you think of the issue? Have you read any of the books that made last year's the top 10? If so, what did you think - were they so inflammatory that they should they be banned? Does the fact that they are challenged by some individuals make you want to read them more?


SafeLibraries said...

Here's another point of view: "National Hogwash Week."

Karla said...

I have only read two of the top ten books, much to my disgust!

What did you think about "Bitch and famous"? I think Wendyl Nissen needs to be banned :).

Amanda Ashby said...

Reading is such a personal experience and no one has the right to control what we should or shouldn't look at. I've only read one book from that list but of course now I want to read them all just because I can!!!!!!!!

Kelly said...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

And to safelibraries - thanks also for supplying an alternative point of view but I am afraid you have failed to convince me.


I just found this wonderful quote from Oscar Wilde that ties in beautifully with Banned Book Week.

"Oh, it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."

a cat of impossible colour said...

I make a point of reading banned books, because 99% of the time the fact that they are banned means that they are very good. :)