Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week in the United States

Sponsored by the American Library Association, it's Banned Books Week here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The land of supposedly free speech and freedom of expression. During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. As Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit Free Press points out, this is one national week of recognition that we shouldn't need in our country.

Sadly, according to the American Library Association there were 513 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom just in 2008. The top ten contested books were:
  • And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
  • TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
  • Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  • Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  • Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  • Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
Personally, I haven't read most of these, but I did read the entire "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series when I was in junior high. They're freakin' scarey stories to tell in the dark! They're supposed to be edgy!

Other books that were banned or challenged last year were J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill,” and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Many, many books have been challenged or banned in some places, including beloved classics. Check out the ALA's Frequently Challenged Books section.

The banning of books threaten the freedom of speech and expression. For society and civilization to thrive, we need to be able to freely exchange ideas. Also, I just generally don't agree with trying to put books in a corner (or a fire). So go ahead to, where every one of these books are still available for purchase. Read something someone else thinks is inappropriate.

Or perhaps you already have?

The 2009 celebration of Banned Books Week is September 26 through October 3.

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