Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Read a banned book this week

Banned Books Week began Saturday and is being observed through this coming Saturday. As a lifetime reader and more recently as a library volunteer, I welcome this occasion every year to think about the effects of censorship.

My church library had some books mysteriously vanish but the books were later replaced thanks to a generous donation by United Christian Parish.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) records book challenges that are reported to it. From these, it compiles its annual list of most-frequently challenged books.

For 2010, the most-frequently challenged books are:

  1. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson;
  2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; 
  3. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley;
  4. “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins;
  5. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins;
  6. “Lush” by Natasha Friend;
  7. “What My Mother Doesn't Know” by Sonya Sones;
  8. “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich;
  9. “Revolutionary Voices,” edited by Amy Sonnie; and 
  10. “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer.
The OIF has recorded more than 10,000 book challenges since 1990, according to a sample “Letter to the Editor” posted on its website. The OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded.

People who challenge books may think they have helpful intentions, but the removal of books is an overtly aggressive act. To quote again from the sample opinion column, “Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves.”

In the OIF’s own words, “Intellectual freedom — the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular — provides the foundation for Banned Books Week (BBW).  BBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

“The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings,” according to the OIF. “Fortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.”

In observance of Banned Books Week, consider reading a book that has been the subject of attempted challenges. There are a number of really good books, both classic and contemporary, on the OIF’s compiled lists.

Look for displays of banned books at a public library. Readers can also find out more online at www.ala.org/bbooks or www.facebook.com/bannedbooksweek.

Published Sept. 27, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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