Thursday, September 21, 2017

Are You With the Banned?

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 as a response to a surge in challenges to books in libraries, schools, and stores. It brings together librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers in support of the freedom to read. Each year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom puts together a list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of the year, based on stories from the media and challenges which have been reported, and you can also check out lists of the most frequently challenged books and challenged classics on the American Library Association's website; they also have infographics which show challenges by reason, initiator, and and institution over the course of a decade. Readers are encouraged to get involved, via the Rebel Reader Twitter Tournament, Stand For the Banned Read-Out, and more.

There were 323 challenges reported in 2016 to the American Library Association [ALA]. A challenge is "an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group," according to the ALA, rather than an actual removal of the item, which is banning. The top ten for this year included graphic novels, children's fiction, picture books, young adult books, and one book of short stories written for adults. Not all the books were new - there were challenges on books published from 2005-2015 - and the challenges were varied. "May lead a student to 'sexual experimentation'," "challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author," "because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints," "includes LGBT characters, drug use, and profanity,"and for "being 'disgusting and all around offensive.'"

What you might not realize is that any book might be challenged. Less likely, perhaps, to make the top ten most challenged list are books of poetry and work by poets. The following list is taken from "Poetry's Place in the History of Banned Books," by

Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire: Banned in 1857 for eroticism, and, according to the judges, poems that “necessarily lead to the excitement of the senses.”

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Banned for alleged promotion of drug use and portrayal of anthropomorphized animals.

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer: Banned for its criticism of the medieval church, as well as its obscene language and sexual content.

Amores (Loves) & Ars amatoria (Art of Love) by Ovid: Banned, challenged, and burned for sexual content.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein: Banned for encouraging bad behavior and addressing topics some deemed inappropriate for children.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman: Famously “banned in Boston” in 1882 for sexual content.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare: In 2011, deemed inappropriate for Arizona schools, as the law prohibited courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”


Banned Books Week

Banned and Challenged Books [American Library Association]

Banned Books Week on Facebook

Banned Books Week on YouTube

Banned Books Week 2017 to Celebrate Everybody's Freedom to Read [American Booksellers Association]

Banned Books Week infographic [ACLU]

Simon & Schuster Celebrates Banned Books Week

Banned Comics [Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]

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