Unshelved at GCCL: Banned Book Week
September 26, 2018
Banned Books Week is a time every year dedicated to celebrating the freedom to read held this year from Sept. 23-29. The objectives of the week are bring about awareness of books that have been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools, encourages people to engage in conversation about banned or challenged books, and drawing attention to the harms of censorship.
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, while a banning is the actual removal of those materials. When an item is challenged it involves more than a person expressing a point of view; it can lead to the removal of material and restricting the access of others. Who initiates challenges to materials and where do they take place? The majority of people that initiate challenges of certain materials are patrons and parents. In most instances, challenges take place at public libraries, schools and school libraries.
Materials are challenged based on all sorts of different reasons; violence, sex education, religion, politics, profanity, etc. For example, in 2004 an EyeWitness Book about horses, was requested to be removed from an elementary library in Helena by a parent who believed the book promoted evolution.
Books are not the only items threatened with censorship. Things such as special programs, displays, magazines, films, games and databases are also challenged.
The American Library Association and Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) issues a Top Ten Most Challenged Books list every year. The list is based on information from data they have collected via media and/or voluntary challenge reports. These reports are sent to OIF from communities across the United States. However, it should be mentioned that the Top Ten list is only a small portion of some of the books challenged. OIF states that about 82-97 percent of requests to remove materials from schools or libraries remain unreported and receive no media. Just last year, 354 challenges were tracked. Here is the list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2017:
Thirteen Reasons Why written by Jay Asher
Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian written by Sherman Alexie
Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini
This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
George written by Alex Gino
Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
Sex is a Funny Word written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
The Hate U Give written by Angie Thomas
Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
And Tango Makes Three written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.
The definition for intellectual freedoms is “the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.” Censorship prejudges for others and suppresses ideas or information. Books have been and will continue to be the majority of items challenged, but in most cases they remain available. As long as people continue to stand up for freedom to read, others will have the chance to view materials and make up their own mind about subject matter.