Staff Picks: Banned Books Week 2012
September 30th through October 6th is Banned Books Week! Every year libraries, schools, booksellers and book lovers across the United States celebrate the freedom to read. We reflect on books that have been targets of censorship, as well as the members of our community that keep controversial books on the shelves and in classrooms. 2012 marks the thirtieth year of Banned Books Week, and the YA staff picks this fall are all books that have been challenged or banned in the past thirty years.
Who tried to ban these books, and why? A parent in Helena, Montana stated in 2011 that Sherman Alexie’s award-winning story, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, contained “obscene, vulgar and pornographic language”. Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Slaughterhouse Five was challenged in a Kentucky high school in 1985 because it, among other reasons, makes “a reference to ‘Magic Fingers’ attached to the protagonist’s bed”. The Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in 1983 because, according to one member, it is “a real downer”. In 2007, a patron opposed to the sex education book It’s Perfectly Normal checked out copies from her local libraries and refused to return them, stating in a letter that “the contents of the book in question leads to a lot of misery, pain, lack of freedom, and often death”.
While those who challenge books often have concerns that the materials are unsuitable for children and youth, advocates for unrestricted access feel that a child’s own parents or legal guardians are the only people with the right to make that call. More often than not, books that are challenged remain available – but only because someone speaks up for the book in question. Readers like you can make a big difference in keeping controversial books available.
Keep an eye out around the Athenaeum this fall for more information on banned books!