Today is the first day of Banned Books Week. Every year, I do a series of posts in honor of the week and the books that are so important to be kept in circulation, and read by generations to come.
As it's the first day, I'm going to talk a bit about what Banned Books Weeks actually is, for those who still may be unfamiliar, and why it's such an important week. I'll also share the list of the top ten frequently challenged books of 2015, and some thoughts on a couple of books on the list.
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Check out the frequently challenged books section to explore the issues and controversies around book challenges and book banning. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted with removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.
The reasoning behind Banned Books Week, and why it's important, is that it highlights the importance of free and open access to information. The week also brings together the entire book community, online and offline...libraries, booksellers, publishers, journalists, bloggers, teachers and readers who recognize the need to speak out and support the freedom to produce and have access to all materials, even those that are considered unconventional or unpopular.
The focus on efforts to remove or restrict access to books helps to draw attention to censorship and the harm it can cause. It's important to remember that books continue to be banned and targeted for removal and restrictions in libraries and in schools. However, many of the books challenged have remained available due to the extraordinary efforts of librarians, teachers, students and community members who, by standing up and speaking out, refuse to let the freedom to read be abused.
TOP TEN FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS OF 2015
Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other ("poorly written," "concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it").
I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other ("wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints").
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other ("profanity and atheism").
The Holy Bible Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel Reasons: Violence and other ("graphic images").
Habibi, by Craig Thompson Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan Reasons: Homosexuality and other ("condones public displays of affection").
Fifty Shades of Grey - I have personally refused to read this book because 1) I have heard it's poorly written and 2) I have a problem with any woman allowing herself to be subjected to abuse because she's in love with a man, AND believing that she will be able to change him. Now, granted I did not read the book and I know there were many who really liked it, or at least didn't absolutely hate it. However, after reading many reviews on Goodreads, I know that this is a book I would not want to waste my time reading. My sister made me watch the movie. I wish I could get those two hours back.
All of the above being said, and I get the reasoning behind the challenges to this book (who wants their daughters thinking this is a normal relationship and wanting something like it?), I do think that this is the moment when parenting comes into play. If your daughter wants to read it, perhaps read it with her to demonstrate and point out the reasons why the relationship in the book is a harmful, inappropriate relationship. This is why being aware of what your kids are reading and watching is important, so we don't miss those teachable moments. I realize there are parents who are not involved and aware. Perhaps those are the kids these challenges are trying to protect, but by protecting the few, harm is being done to the many by restricting access to certain books.
The Holy Bible - I am not a Christian. Let me get that out of the way right away. I used to be a Christian. I was raised Baptist and then converted to Lutheran and was baptized Lutheran about ten years ago. I have since abandoned Christianity for personal reasons. I now consider myself an Agnostic, Deist and a Pagan. I believe in my right to not have to commit to just one if, or until, I decide to. On that note, I also believe and support the right of eveyone else to believe what they believe. I do not believe the bible is the word of God. I believe that it is more of an allegorical book meant to teach lessons, much in the way of Aesop's Fables. That being said, I certainly do not begrudge a believer to believe in, and have access to, the bible. To challenge the bible because of religious viewpoint is just as bad as restricting a book because of homosexuality. People believe what they believe and they are what/who they are. The First Amendment is there to protect these rights:
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.