It’s Banned Books Week. Yes, in this day and age, books still get banned. We might not hear about it too frequently — some parents (successfully) had Harry Potter banned in schools because it “promotes witchcraft” — but every year books are banned or challenged.
What do you need to do for Banned Books Week? Simply read, preferably a banned book. To join the conversation, you can participate in a virtual read-out by creating a video addressing why the freedom to read is important. Videos will be featured on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. Running Sept. 25 to Oct 1, the initiative endeavours to reach out to communities across America, engaging readers and encouraging participation through education and advocacy (Canada's Freedom to Read Week is Feb. 26 to March 4, 2017).
“Read books the 'closed-minded' want shut,” reads one tweet from the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association, while the Pulitzer Prizes’ Twitter page asks “How many Pulitzer-winning banned books have you read?”
A Simon & Schuster web page for Banned Books Week includes quotes from various authors:
“If you don’t want your child to read a particular book, that’s your choice. But please don’t attempt to dictate such choices for the rest of us,” said E.R. Frank, author of the “frequently challenged,” America.
“Banning books is just another form of bullying. It’s all about fear and the assumption of power. The key is to address the fear and deny the power,” said James Howe, author of the “frequently challenged” The Misfits.
Endorsed by the Centre for the Book at the Library of Congress, Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association,” it states on the Banned Books Week web site.
“The Banned Books Week Coalition is a national alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship.”
Banned Books Week 2016 focuses on diversity. American Library Association statistics state that the work of diverse authors is challenged and banned in disproportionate numbers. This means that the perspectives of marginalized peoples — already struggling to be heard in the mainstream — are often actively challenged and suppressed by those who feel threatened by them.
Below is a list of the top 10 most challenged books of 2015. The 2016 list won’t be available until the spring of 2017. Attempts have been made to ban these books and to remove them from shelves and syllabi across the U.S. The ALA officially condemns this as censorship and a restriction on free access to information.
A list of frequently challenged books from 1990 to 1999; and 2000 to 2009, can be found here.
Below are the 2015 most challenged books:
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).