Banned Books Week…

Every year I tell myself that I’ll do something interesting, something meaningful, something special to mark the passing of a week which is 50% anger and 50% amusement for me. On the one hand, people are idiots, banning books because they don’t like them. On the other hand, people are hilarious, thinking that anyone else will listen to them.

So I’d like to take just a brief moment to mention that banned books week is upon us. The top 10 most challenged books of 2009 were:

1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Have any of you read these? Are you going to read any of them now that you know they’re on this list?

I’m going to be picking up at least a few of these– most notably the ones I have not yet read. (I will not read The Color Purple again. Once was enough.)

I’ll say what I’ve said so many times before, in so many places: We need to allow children the freedom to read. We need to allow teens the freedom to read. We need to allow adults the freedom to read. And if that means that we’re allowing them to read books that say “thong” or that talk about more than kissing, then that’s what it means. Because really, kids know about sex, and as long as the books aren’t giving them some warped, abusive, violent representation of it (without good cause), then why shouldn’t we let them read it?

Also, we need to let children set their own curve. When I was 8, I was ready for some more grown up books than could be found in the children’s section. This does not mean that all 8 year-olds are ready, and it does not mean that no other 8-year olds are. It means that children mature in different ways at different speeds.

To round out the post, some sources:

ALA: Banned Books Week, Sept 25-Oct 2

ALA: Top 100 banned/challenged books 2000-2009

Robin McKinley on Banned Books Week

5 Comments

Filed under Not a Book Review

5 responses to “Banned Books Week…

  1. I read about this in the paper! It’s a bit strange isn’t it? Thank you for bringing it to peopl’s attention; great post!

    However, I think some perspective is needed. Apparently one school in America tried to teach ‘The Color Purple’ to a class of 10 year olds. Now I’m not saying that Books should be banned; but that material just isn’t suitable; for the same reason that you wouldn’t show the Saw films to a class of pre-teens. It’s not responsible.

    Interesting though…

    http://tomcatintheredroom.wordpress.com/

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    • There is no way that teaching The Color Purple to ten year-olds is appropriate. Were a 10 year-old to read it on their own, because they felt ready to confront a text like that, it would be different.

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  2. I actually asked to read The Color Purple when I was ten, and my mother said no. It’s the only time I can ever remember her telling me I shouldn’t read a specific book. She said it was a great book and I’d like it better if I read it later. And she was quite right.

    By and large, however, I think I mostly self-censored if I started reading a book that had sex or violence or whatever that I wasn’t ready for. If it made me feel uncomfortable, I quit reading it. I think I’d have been far less likely to do this if there was some big fuss about how I shouldn’t read a certain book though.

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    • I don’t recall ever putting a book down because I felt it was too grown up for me. I do recall putting quite a few down because they were too boring for me.

      I think for some (you and me, at least) being told “no, you can’t read that” is a challenge. For others (who may be more agreeable) it is enough, and they will leave it alone.

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  3. I’ve never read The Color Purple, or a lot of these books. Though I think I’d ban Twilight from my own house on general principles…think I’ll go straight to the top of the list, as I’ve been meaning to read Lauren Myracle for a while.

    Coming from a background where I could (and did) read pretty much anything I wanted to (except actual “adult” materials like pornography), I don’t remember being scarred by anything that I read. Neil Gaiman has talked about this too, the fact that he’s had some relatively young readers for his Sandman series but if they chose it for themselves, they seemed ready. As long as you’re not forcing kids to read something they’re not ready for, I don’t see the problem.

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