Banned Books: A Comparison

by Elizabeth on September 28, 2010 · 1 comment

in banned books week, censorship sucks, librarianship

In celebration of Banned Books Week, I want to share with you then 10 most challenged books of 2009 and the reasons they were challenged/banned.  

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality
3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
6. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 

In order to get a better idea of the comparison I’m doing below, let’s take a look at the ten most challenged books from 1990-1999.  I’ve listed the reasons for the challenges/bans if I can find them.

1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz  Reasons: scary, violent, occult
2. Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite Reasons: promotes homosexuality, age inappropriate
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou Reasons: sexually explicit, specifically graphic depictions of molestation and rape
4. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier  Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain Reasons: vulgar language; offensive to African Americans
6. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck Reasons: “profanity and using God’s name in vain”; vulgar and offensive; contains terminology offensive to blacks
7. Forever, by Judy Blume Reasons: sexually explicit, profanity, morality (pre-marital sex)
8. Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson Reasons: offensive language, fantasy (references to witchcraft)
9. Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman Reasons: promotes homosexuality, age inappropriate
10. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger Reasons: “anti white” and “obscene”; language and content of the book

Looking at these two lists, the thing that stands out to me most is that most books are challenged for being “inappropriate to age group”. However, the difference in the two lists is that 9 out of the 10 books in 2009 were challenged for having something to do with sexuality where only 5 books from 1990-1999 were cited for being “sexually explicit” or “promoting homosexuality”.

This makes me wonder, are more books being published for young adults today that are more sexually explicit? Looking at Lauren Myracle’s series and the Gossip Girl series (that was in the top ten last year) that are marketed for teenage girls, an argument can be made that yes, more sexually explicit books are being published. It’s also obvious that parents have an objection to these books.

Every day books are challenged. Concerned citizens protest classrooms, school districts, and libraries to have books removed from shelves and reading lists. The American Library Association maintains that everyone, no matter age, race, religion, economic background, or sexual orientation, can be barred from reading whatever they want. This Freedom to Read is fundamental to librarians. 

However, maintaining this freedom isn’t easy. Sometimes books do appear to be inappropriate; games too violent; movies too sexual. Sometimes our own morals and ideals get in the way of intellectual freedom. But as librarians, it is our job to make sure that everyone has equal access to information. That includes everything from the latest Gossip Girl book to nude photography books to rated “R” movies.

While it may be hard to stay strong against overwhelming opposition, think of it this way: if you allow one book to be removed from your shelves today, who’s going to stand up for the freedom to read when all are the books are banned tomorrow?

Tomorrow I’m going to be diving into the “gray” areas of banning and challenging books.  So if you have comments about that, please wait until tomorrow where you can share your thoughts and opinions.  For today, let’s ponder these questions:

  • What do you think of these lists?  Do they make sense to you?
  • How many of these books have you read?  Do you agree with the reasons for the challenges?
  • What books were you surprised to see on the list?  What books were missing?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 withduckandgoose October 4, 2010 at 8:11 pm

i've read a huge chunk of the books listed, and i have to say – i'm surprised that the Catcher in the Rye is still being challenged/banned today.

we let our kids watch countless violent things on tv, the news is so graphic they leave nothing to the imagination, and yet we ban books for mentioning homosexuality and having swear words in them? what?

i'm of the opinion that no book should ever be banned, for any reason. if you don't like the subject, don't read it. in a world where literacy and writing are struggling to survive… how could we possibly put restrictions on books?


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