I’m a little late, since the week is almost over, but I wanted to put my two cents in on Banned Books Week. The American Library Association describes the event as “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. …Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.” A banned book is defined as one that has been removed from a school’s curriculum or a library, thereby restricting access. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials.
Much has been written this week in support of the first amendment and free access to the written word and against censorship. I’ve provided links to some that I’ve enjoyed later in the post. In the meantime, I decided it would be interesting to make a list of all the books I’ve read that appear on the most often banned or challenged lists. This list undoubtedly constitutes a fraction of the total number of banned books I’ve read, since only those that get consistently challenged or are successfully banned appear on the lists.
It is fair to say that I simply would not be the same person without some of these books. Shel Silverstein? Roald Dahl? Judy Blume? Katherine Paterson? S.E. Hinton? Madeleine L’Engle? Hello??? That’s my whole youth up in flames right there. On a side note, I chuckled to myself at the omission of one of my most beloved books of all time – Eloise, by Kay Thompson. I’m wondering how she escaped the would-be banners’ eyes. In it, the adults drink, smoke, and gamble. There is an abstentee parent (perhaps even an unwed mother – we’re never quite sure). Eloise runs unsupervised around the Plaza Hotel in various states of undress, commits acts of vandalism, taunts her tutor endlessly and says, “For Lord’s Sake” a LOT.
But I digress… Here’s my list:
- Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
- Deenie, Blubber, Tiger Eyes, Are You There God it’s Me Margaret? and Forever, by Judy Blume (Interesting that Then Again Maybe I Won’t isn’t on the list. Is that because it’s puberty from the male point of view?)
- James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
- A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
- Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
- Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (the source of recent outrage after an attempted removal from a school curriculum in Missouri – more below)
- It’s Not the Stork, by Robie Harris
- The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
- That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving (My ALL-TIME favorite book!)
- Carrie, Christine and Cujo, by Stephen King (I guess the banners got tired after getting through King’s “C” titles. It sort of seems like if you ban one you’ve gotta ban ’em all, right?)
- Animal Dreams and The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
- A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- Twilight (series), by Stephenie Meyer (On the claim it’s sexually explicit. Really? Cause I thought we had to read 3000 pages before they had sex, and that was AFTER they were married – at age 18).
- Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
- Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (My favorite childhood book)
- My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
- Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey (Yes I’ve read it. Kids live in my house)
- How to Eat Fried Worms, by Thomas Rockwell
- Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
- A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein (All I can say is… SERIOUSLY?)
- The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
- Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Some Links on Banned Books Week
- Tahereh Mafi has compiled a list of blog posts by people providing reviews of their favorite banned book.
- Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, writes in defense of the children’s books that have been banned.
- Alice Pope, on the SCBWI blog, provides a roundup of #BannedBookWeek tweets, including many blog posts from top bloggers/writers.
- Another list of children’s books that have been banned/challenged and the reasons why.
- The League of Extraordinary Writers is doing an entire series on banned books this week.
- It’s Banned Books Week – by editor Martha Mihalick, including links to other great posts.
- Book Banners Hurt Young People – Nine Kinds of Pie (added 10/1)
- Poems for Banned Books Week – including Laurie Halse Anderson reading Listen, other amazing poems and masses of fabulous links
- And many, many more…
Speak Loudly – posts on the attempt to remove Speak from a high school curriculum in Missouri
- This Guy Thinks SPEAK is Pornography – Laurie Halse Anderson’s “post that launched 1000+ tweets.” Also read her subsequent posts about the firestorm of support that’s come from readers, writers and literary folks of all kinds.
- Speak Loudly – In Defense of Laurie Halse Anderson – MUST READ post by Myra McEntire: a Christian’s perspective
- Speaking Out – Nine Kinds of Pie
- SpeakLoudly.org – a blog launched in response to the challenge to Speak in MO
- Speak Loudly – by Alvina Ling at the Blue Rose Girls, which includes many more links
- Speak Loudly! Speak Out Against Censorship – by Ingrid Sundberg
- And many, many more… Also this ad that ran in the New York Times today:
A Few Quotes
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” — Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.” — Alfred Whitney Griswold
“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.” — Sigmund Freud
“Whenever I read about someone trying to ban a book in a school or library, it usually seems like they are trying to avoid a conversation with their kids that they ought to be having. Whether it’s reminders of unpleasantness in the world, or just a different point of view, it’s condescending to think that kids can’t handle tough ideas.” — MK Reed
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Voltaire
What banned book or books have made a huge difference in your life?