Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Books

The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame. - Oscar Wilde

Banned Books Week is September 25 through October 2. It seems to me that the topic of censorship is what one would read in the news about countries like China, Iran or South Korea. It’s shocking to me that fellow Americans in the year 2010 are still trying to ban books.

According to the ACLU site:

“Banned Books Week is an annual event started by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1982. This week-long event, held during the last week of September, raises awareness of freedom of speech through celebrating challenged books and the value of free expression.

A book is “challenged” when a person or group objects to the materials and attempts to remove or restrict their accessibility. A book is “banned” when this removal is successful.

Thanks to the work of libraries and the ACLU, most book challenges are now unsuccessful.”

Think for Yourself and Let Others Do the Same" is the theme this year. I think it’s a good one. Nothing irritates me more than for someone to read a book and then tell me I shouldn’t have the same privilege because they found something offensive in the material. It’s even more insulting when people object simply by what they hear about a book without bothering to read it. In my opinion, if something in a book offends someone, he/she has every right to put the book down, but not the right to tell me that I can’t pick it up.

Some people believe they are protecting our children by banning books with controversial topics, foul language and sexual topics. However, I don’t think these people give kids enough credit for being able to think logically and for their ability to identify right from wrong. Age appropriate discussions about the book or a particular scene seem much better than hoping to keep a child in the dark all her life by pretending certain situations don’t exist.

According to a csmonitor.com article, “Banned Books Week 2010: Which books drew the most fire last year?” more than half of banned book challenges in 2009 came from Texas and Pennsylvania. The article goes on to say:

“In the two decades the ALA has been keeping track, parents have been responsible for 48 percent of all challenges. The most common reason: sexual explicitness (33 percent), followed by offensive language (26 percent), and material “unsuited to age group” (21 percent).

While efforts to ban books are decreasing overall – between 2004 and 2009 the ALA received 21 percent fewer reports than a decade before – Banned Books Week highlights that controversies over public access to books and First Amendment rights are alive and well throughout the United States.”


The banned book list for 2010 won’t be complied until next year. The usual books like Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are once again on the challenged list. Here are a few others that might surprise you.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
The Tortilla Curtain - T. Coraghessan Boyle
Running with Scissors – Augustan Burroughs
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America – Barbara Ehrenreich
And Tango Makes Three – Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (This is a picture book based on a true story about a pair of male penguins in a zoo who nurture an egg together).

For more on this topic you might want to visit:
10 Ways to Celebrate Banned Books Week
The American Library Association, Celebrating the Freedom to Read

How do you plan to celebrate Banned Books Week? If you plan on reading a banned book, which one will you choose?

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you again next Monday.

Tags: Oscar Wilde, banned books, banned books week, challenged books,

15 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great post on an important topic, Jane!

It's hard to imagine books being banned in this day and age. Thanks for shining a spotlight on Banned Books Week.

Elisabeth said...

I'm all for an end to blanket and seemingly mindless censorship like this, Jane. It most often derives out of a wish to maintain power, to silence dissenting voices or out of ignorance.

My husband's mother used to burn books like Lady Chatterly's Lover. It only made my husband want to read more.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

What an important topic you touch upon, Jane. As you say, there is very little I dislike more than someone reading a book then deciding I should not have the choice to do the same. And if they take that decision without even reading the book, it is actually worse.

Journaling Woman said...

We have this happen in our rural areas in the schools. I haven't heard of this happening in the county and city libraries.

Great post!

Jenny said...

Thanks for this important post.

I read "Tango" this weekend, but I didn't know it was a true story until I got to the last page.

I'm not sure which other banned/challenged books I will read this week, but I'm sorry I have so many to choose from!

Darcia Helle said...

Excellent post, Jane, and very well said. No one person or single group should have the power to tell the rest of us what we can or cannot read. I have to wonder about these groups of "concerned" parents who seem to have nothing better to do than scour bookshelves for books they can label offensive. And I'm baffled as to why Nickel and Dimed would be on that list. That was one of the most enlightening books I've read about the condition of our society. That wasn't written for children and I can't imagine how it would be inappropriate for adults. (Aside from the fact that we might learn some truths about the poor people in our country.)

Joanne said...

The good that does come from this issue is that in essence, it does shine a light on very significant books, bringing them to even more readers' attention to read and discuss.

Karen Walker said...

It terrifies me that people are still trying to ban books in this country. What next!
Karen

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm amazed that people in our country still want to ban books. Great post.

Hart Johnson said...

Hey, thank you for the heads up and details--I shared on FB and plan to tweet. There is nothing worse than people who think they should get to make everybody else's decisions for them. I support full info, (book includes X,Y,Z), as readers also deserve the right for full info in their decisions (especially for kids) but I happen to think controversial topics in books open the doors of communication.

DazyDayWriter said...

Jane, I agree ... "it’s shocking to me that fellow Americans in the year 2010 are still trying to ban books."
Haven't they heard that whatever you resist ... persists?

Not only that, but this is America. Can't we please set a more enlightened example?

Helen Ginger said...

Shoot, left a long comment, hit publish and got an error report. Ah well... Once kids go to college they need a foundation of reading critically and thinking for themselves. Books can provide that, if they're read and discussed in school and at home.

arlee bird said...

I do think there are books that are mental age appropriate. Parents should be aware of what their kids are reading and discuss the books with them. I think it would be great for parents to read the same books their kids are reading while they are reading them and discuss the book as they go.

I do agree with some of the scrutiny of textbooks that is currently being done in Texas. I have a real distrust of the agendas promoted by some textbook authors, especially in history.

I'd like to read Catcher in the Rye if I could find my damn copy. I started the first few pages a couple years ago and now I can find the book. I know it's here somewhere and I don't want to buy another copy. Oh well, I've got no shortage of things to read.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

As I stated on another post, lazy parents just want someone else to do their job for them rather than take the time to get involved in the lives of their kids.

Hart Johnson said...

Hey, Jane-I have a blog award for you today!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world