Monday, October 1, 2012

Banned Books Week: ALA reveals top ten list of banned books

AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Matt Kryger

It's hard to believe but Banned Books Week, going on through Oct. 6, is still necessary.

Why? "Because there are still individuals and groups who find certain material objectionable and take it upon themselves to try and restrict these materials from other readers," said Maureen Sullivan, president of the American Library Association, during an interview from New York. The ALA is a nonprofit group founded in 1876, providing resources and support for challenges that are happening, and in response to a sudden rise in the number of challenges to ban books in 1982 launched what is known as Banned Books Week.

"This is the 30th anniversary," Sullivan said. Banned Books Week calls the public's attention to the fact that there is this tendency to ban public library books but also rallies the entire book community -- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types - to help support the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Corey Michael Dalton, shown above lying on a cot in a window at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, is one reader who is crusading on his own. According to a report by the Associated Press, Dalton is living in the window, sleeping on a cot at the library behind a wall of books that have been banned at one time or another, to call attention to Banned Books Week. 

"We believe every reader should have the right to choose what they want to read," Sullivan said. "We provide resources and support for any challenges that are happening.
"'To Kill a Mocking Bird' was the first one that I read that I was aware was a banned book," she added.

Written by Harper Lee and published in July 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is the story of a lawyer in a small Southern town who agrees to defend a young black man who is accused of raping a white woman. It is a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of the father's tomboyish 6-year-old daughter Scout, who learns through her neighborhood meanderings and the example of her father, to understand that the world isn't always fair and that prejudice is a very real aspect of their world, however subtle it may seem.

The book was banned for its offensive language and material dealing with racism. It remains on the ALA's list of top 10 most frequently challenged books, which are defined by the ALA as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.

A lot of judgments have to do with children. But as Sullivan points out, determining whether a child is ready to read at a certain level is a lot different from censorship or banning of a book. 

"There were 326 challenges reported last year, more than 11,300 since they started electronically tabulating data in 1990," said Jennifer Petersen, with the ALA public information office referring to the LIST OF CHALLENGED OR BANNED BOOKS. "My favorite is "The Adventure of Super Diaper Baby" banned from the Channelview, Texas Independent School District (2011) because it contained the phrase 'poo-poo head.'"

And yes, ladies, a popular title most recently challenged is "Fifty Shades of Grey." As part of its effort to support events in Manhattan, the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Comic Book Leganl Defense Fund has planned a virtual read-out of erotic literature, playfully dubbed "Fifty Shades of Banned."

Top ten list of banned books for 2012
Out of 326 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

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