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Monday, September 22, 2008

ALA's Banned Books Week, Teen Books, and You

I'm currently working on a blog post for readergirlz about ALA's Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read, which is coming up soon, September 27 - October 4, 2008.

The whole idea of banned books makes me a little nervous. I don't believe pornography should be available to kids, but I do believe that books on difficult subjects should be, in an age-appropriate way. I fully expect someone, somewhere, to ban my first novel, A Light That Never Goes Out (hopefully released in Fall 2010) - not because I'm ashamed of the content, but because someone else might be. It deals honestly with death, teen pregnancy, and family dynamics. There are bad words in it, though I could probably count them on one hand, and each one I felt was necessary and true to the speaker. I know in my heart I was meant to write this book, and there are readers meant to read it. I can't fathom the idea of making it unavailable to them.

I'm a little shocked at some of the books on the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2007 list. Kevin Henkes? Really? Here is the full list, from the ALA website:

The following books were the most frequently challenged in 2007:

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 420 challenges last year. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

---end stuff from ALA---

Some of my very favorite books have been challenged, like Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going. She writes about the experience of book banning in her blog. I think her attitude is a healthy, sensible one. (To learn more about Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom, go to www.asif.org.)

What about you? Have any of your favorite books been banned? How do you feel about the issue?


  1. Banned Books Week is "shameless propaganda" more appropriately named, "National Hogwash Week." To see who said that and more, see http://preview.tinyurl.com/sowell

    I can see, however, that you are reasonable. So perhaps the above linked information will help you to think more about the issues by providing a different viewpoint from the incessant drone of the ALA propaganda machine in hundreds of papers nationwide upon the ALA's direction.

    And you'll love what that former ALA Councilor says because it is "totally different" from the ALA propaganda, it makes sense, and it agrees with your own comments: "I don't believe pornography should be available to kids, but I do believe that books on difficult subjects should be, in an age-appropriate way."

    Very good.

  2. Awesome post, Holly! Thanks for the info.