In honor of Banned Books Week, I urge you to NOT read this post!
Well, if you’re a rebel like me, you’ve continued. Good for you.
When I was in the classroom, I loved Banned Books Week. My first teaching job was at a school comparable to the one in Dangerous Minds or Stand and Deliver. I started teaching in November after three other teachers left. On my first day, a young man threw a desk at me. Trust me when I say, these kids knew what it meant to break laws. So when I told them that reading certain books would break a law, I got their attention.
One year, I arranged for security to come and confiscate all our copies of Of Mice and Men. Then an administrator pretended to write me up and threaten to fire me. None of my students said anything for the rest of the class. I gave the books back to them the next day and explained why I did it. I also explained to four parents who called the school mad as heck.
There is a difference between a challenge and a ban. According to the ALA website, a challenge is an attempt to remove a book and a ban is the actual removal of the book (citation). Speaking from my own personal observation, anytime a book has a swear word, a racial epitaph, or any kind of sex beyond a kiss on the check there will be a challenge. However, the kinds of challenges have changed over the last several years. James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom said challenges today are mostly “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities” (citation).
The most challenged books for 2015 are:
- 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”)
I only know two books on this list; Fifty Shades of Grey and The Holy Bible. (What does this say about me?) I would like to hear from any of you who have read any of the others on this list. Here is a link with a little more information about each of these books.
Who wants these books banned? Mostly parents. (citation). I firmly believe that parents have the right to control what goes on in their house and if there is a book they don’t want their child to read, they can make that happen. However, they don’t have the right to ban books from my child. And I believe none of us have the right to ban books from the public library. There is fear in being uncomfortable. Many parents believe it is better to avoid any uncomfortable situations rather than take advantage of these opportunities to open dialog. It is easier to ignore it than to face it.
When I worked in the library anytime I told a student a book was banned, it was the first book they would read. So my two cents? Be a rebel. Pick up a banned book and enjoy.