Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Celebrating Banned Books Week

BannedBooksWeek2007What do the classics The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird have in common? They'll be celebrated as part of the American Library Association's (ALA) Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrations from September 29 to October 6.

A challenge is a person expressing a point of view and is also an attempt to remove or restrict materials from the curriculum or library, based upon the objections of a person or group, thereby restricting the access of others. A banning is the removal of those materials. The top three reasons usually cited for challenging (and banning) material are that it's considered to be "sexually explicit," contain "offensive language," and be "unsuited to age group."

While books usually are challenged with the best of intentions—to protect children from difficult ideas and information—censorship, whether subtle and imperceptible, or blatant and overt, is nonetheless harmful. As Ray Bradbury says, "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." Implied here is that the sum of a culture is contained within the pages of a book.

Authors who frequented the ALA list of top 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s, included Judy Blume, Alvin Schwartz, and Toni Morrison. Surprises for me were the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and the Earth Children series by Jean Auel.

For this year, the list of adult books includes I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. The young adult list contains Forever by Judy Blume, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. The corresponding children's books are In a Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz, The Stupids Step Out by Harry Allard, Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People by Dav Pilkey, and It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris.

QuestionMarkDo you think books should be banned? Are there cases where it's clearly warranted?