This week begins the annual “Banned Books Week” which lasts through October 2. The yearly event is sponsored by the American Library Association and promotes literacy, free speech and a free press. It’s the regular battle against the self-styled, self-appointed overlords of what is supposedly proper and improper for everyone to see and read. I’ve always believed this should be a year-long event, as free speech and free press are under constant threat – not just in, but in totalitarian regimes, like North Korea, but even in open societies, such as the United States.
Keep writing and keep fighting!
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. A total of 273 books were targeted for removal, but here is a list of the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books. Some are familiar classics, while others are new arrivals.
George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message
5 responses to “Banned Books Week 2021”
Goodness me! To Kill a Mockingbird! I read this for school far too many years ago. I take their point about white saviour character but is there not enough good things in that book, and possibly others that makes it valid. That is just madness. It is a seminal book which I think contributed so much to the anti racism cause, it is a loss to the readers of the future.
It’s been on the hit list of many here in the U.S. for years now, as has been Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”. If we banned every book that ever offended someone, there wouldn’t be much to read in a public venue, except instructions manuals and food recipes!
Any type of book censorship – no matter how offensive the tome – gets on my nerves and is a step towards totalitarianism. A truly civilized, progressive society can’t survive like that.
As I read through those reasons for banning those books I see a familiar theme of “these books don’t promote our conservative white Christian values.” Am I the only person who longs for the day these people no longer hold power?
No, you’re not! I don’t know where these self-righteous fools got the idea they are the final authority on what is and what is not appropriate for the rest of us. The Texas State School Board is filled with these lunatics. Even we moderates have a tough time getting our voices heard with them! That’s why the wars for free speech and freedom of expression will never be won. Like the right to vote, we must remain alert and combat the holier-than-thou forces of stupidity always and forever!