Liberating Literature: Banned Books Week

by Rachel Stewart

This week, September 21-27, is “Banned Books Week,” hosted by The American Library Association.  It’s an annual event which celebrates the freedom to read, freedom of speech, and highlights the value of free and open access to information. The event hopes to draw attention to the harms of censorship, to encourage readers to pick up books that have been banned in the past, and to read about subjects that may be considered unorthodox or unpopular.

A challenge to a book is defined by the American Library Association as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group,” whereas banning is defined as “the removal of those materials.”  The most common reasons for a challenge is that a book contains one of the following: sexually explicit material, offensive language, materials deemed to be “unsuited to age group,” violence, homosexuality, occult or Satanic themes, material that goes against a religion, and “anti-family” material.  The most common environment for a book to be challenged is in a classroom, with school libraries not far behind, and the most common initiators of the challenge are parents.  The most challenged book of 2013 and 2012 was Captain Underpants (series), written by Dav Pilkey, for offensive language, unsuited for age group, and violence.

When asked for her opinion on book banning, junior Samantha Wick responded, “I think it’s ridiculous, because it’s the student’s decision if they want to read something or not.”

Not everybody feels the way Wick does, however, and books are still being challenged and banned across the country. In the past decade, over 5,000 challenges were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, a part of the American Library Association.  If you would look to join in on Banned Books Week and read some banned or challenged books yourself, a list of books will be provided below, and the reasons that they have been challenged.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age       group.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanna Collins.

Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, violence, anti-ethnic, anti-family,        offensive language, occult/satanic themes.

Looking for Alaska, by John Green.

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

Harry Potter (series), by J.K Rowling.

Reasons: occult/Satanic themes, violence, anti-family, religious viewpoint.

1984, by George Orwell.

Reasons: communist content, sexually explicit, immoral content, offensive language.

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. (Ironically, this book is about the consequences of book banning.)

Reasons: offensive language and content, “questionable themes,” religious viewpoint.

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