September 22 – 28 is Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the joys of reading that hopes to raise attention and awareness to the problems of censorship that currently exist in our countries schools, libraries and book stores.
Think that in this modern day and age the threat to literature isn’t real? Think again. Below you’ll find a small sampling from American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom’s list of books that have been challenged or banned in the past year. You can download the entire list here.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
Challenged as required reading in at least three freshmen English classes at Westfield, N.J. High School (2012) because of “some very sensitive material in the book including excerpts on masturbation amongst other explicit sexual references, encouraging pornography, racism, religious irreverence, and strong language (including the f- and n-words).” Challenged at the West Valley School District in Yakima, Wash. (2013) because some parents found the sexual references and profanity in the novel inappropriate for high school students.
Source: May 2012, pp. 105-6; Mar. 2013, pp. 51–52.
By Toni Morrison
Challenged, but retained as a text in Salem, Mich. High School Advanced Placement English courses (2012). The complainants cited the allegedly obscene nature of some passages in the book and asked that it be removed from the curriculum. District officials determined the novel was appropriate for the age and maturity level of Advanced Placement students. In reviewing the novel, the committee also considered the accuracy of the material, the objectivity of the material, and the necessity of using the material in light of the curriculum. Challenged at the Fairfax County, Va. schools (2013) because a parent complained that the book “depicts scenes of bestiality, gang rape, and an infant’s gruesome murder.” The novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.
Source: Mar. 2012, pp. 79–80; May 2012, pp. 127–28; Mar. 2013, pp. 50–51.
Here’s five ways that you can get involved and make a difference this week:
1. Make a donation: You can make a tax-deductable donation to the ALA to help to fund the Banned Books Week and support the important work of the OIF during the year. Simply text ALABBW to 41518. [More information]
2. Proudly display your love of reading with official merchandise: From bookmarks to t-shirts to posters: the ALA store has all your needs covered. [Browse here]
3. Attend a Google Hangout with a banned/challenged author: All this week authors like Sherman Alexie, Brad Meltzer (The Book of Fate), and Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) will be taking to the internet to chat with readers across the country about the dangers of censorship. [Check here for dates/times]
4. Encourage your local library to take part in a Banned Books Virtual Read-Out: Ask your local institution to make space for patrons to record short readings from their favorite banned books and then upload the results directly to YouTube for the world to watch. [Official submission guidelines here]
5. Join a Twitter party!: New this year, Twitter parties will be held at designated times throughout the week for folks quickly help spread the word about this important cause. [Dates/times and sample tweets are available here]
What’s your favorite banned or challenged book? How will you help spread the word this week? Let us know how you plan to get involved!