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Bring On the Banned Books

Every year Banned Books Week (September 30-October 6) is devoted to reminding the reading public and the book community at large that having the freedom to read what we want isn't always a given when it comes to schools and libraries.  Though I've seen the list countless times I'm always struck dumb by the titles that are frequently challenged or have been removed from school libraries--the majority of them being some of the most popular titles of the day like The Hunger Games (#3 on the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2011) , or books like The Catcher in the Rye that are synomous with classic literature (see more banned and challenged classics here).

2012 marks the 30th year of Banned Books Week and the American Library Association created a really cool timeline that shows a significant banned or challenged book representing each of the last 31 years (it includes 2012) and the reason each title made the list.  It's quite a representation of the big names in publishing and children's books in particular--Maurice Sendak, Katherine Patterson, Kurt Vonnegut, Judy Blume, etc. 2009's representative title may look especially familiar as you've probably been seeing trailers for the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower--the book was challenged in both VA and WI for references to drug use, homosexuality, and suicide.  Something tells me there won't be the same reaction to the movie version. 

It's hard to believe with all the reality shows that have taken over television in recent years showing young people doing drugs, having sex, not just drinking but getting completely hammered, that BOOKS are still challenged... I get it that these are books in schools and libraries and it's the use of our (rapidly dwindling) public funds that get some people in a twist, but as a parent I would much rather have my kid read about drugs and become more informed, than try to learn by doing.  Whatever your thoughts on censorship and books, I hope this week to celebrate reading inspires us all to read something new, share a favorite book, or just remember some of the best reads of your life.  Here are a few of my favorite books that have been challenged in recent years--what are yours?

 

Mickey TKAM HungerGames

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I think everyone should read "Banned Books!" My aunt, who would have been 100 this year, said she'd never take a book away from a child. Im sure she'd have frowned upon a few, but if people are reading, they're learning. Most books are banned out of ignorance!

Started reading at an early age,used to haunt the local libraries to read the newspapers from the capital cities- there was not a lot of news in the union controlled local papers of Broken Hill, late forties early fifties. The comics were the best part, my love of reading rose from that. I was not aware of banned literature. then I found Health and Fitness? Remember them? The nudes were all brushed out.
Along came banned books - The Perfumed Garden, Khuma Sutra, Frank Harris' bio and a few Australian authors, Ruth Park seems to spring to mind, not to mention the Hong Kong "bibles" that circulated through the military bases of South Vietnam- they were pretty crude.
Now we have the Fifty Shades Trilogy, soft porn love stories. These don't have an effect, but Hell, I'm getting close to eighty, too old for anybody telling me what I can read. I WILL read what I want.


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I believe in letting people read what they want, however when my girls were little I read some of the books they wanted to read, before they did, to judge the appropriateness of them for their age at the time. There are many I didn't allow them to read until they were adults. Now, as adults, they read what interests them. If I don't want to read a book, I don't. However I don't agree with not letting someone else read it. Needless to say I am a library trustee and a big believer in the First Amendment.

We celebrate Banned Books Week in our house every year. I'm a firm believer in letting my kids read what they will (within reasonable age-appropriateness, of course) so that we can discuss the big issues as a family. This includes "casual sex" or "glamorous drug use". Being as my kids are a bit young yet for most of that however, we are reading Roald Dahl's "The Witches" out loud in the evenings :)

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If one's book is challenged, does this guarantee bigger sales than if not?
I don't think I want my kids to learn about drugs from fiction because there is always the element of glamour, nor sex because there is usually the element of casualness.
Ah me, where are the books about happy marriages? It's all William's fault with his confounded Romeo and Juliet. Why could he not have had them finally walking into an Italian sunset, or galloping across the beach at Portofino, or looking into each other's happy eyes on a gondola? Damned tragedian....

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