Why are books banned or challenged? And which ones are most frequently banned or challenged This Year?
The mix includes a number of Young Adult books, literary classics and romance novels, including “Gossip Girl,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The most recent listings include Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed.”
The reasons include the following, in random order:
Sexually explicit: It’s the number one reason reason to challenge or ban a book, beginning with Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale,” which was challenged in North Carolina for being “sexually explicit.” Student may be old enough for sex education but not for this book.
Offensive language: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is frequently challenged for the character Alexie’s use of profanity, including the “F-word” and “N-word.” Shades of Henry Miller and Mark Twain. Yes, vulgarity popping up in an academic setting ca be unsettling, but writers often use real-life language when discussing real life and real problems.
Homosexuality: “And Tango Makes Three” is an illustrated children’s book in which a zookeeper witnesses two male penguins performing mating rituals and gives the pair an egg to hatch. The result is Tango, a female chick. It has ranked among the top 10 most frequently challenged books for the last few years.
Violence: Books deemed “violent” are challenged about a third as often as books described as “sexually explicit,” but so-called violent stories have been spotlighted recently.
Religious points of view: The Harry Potter books and the Twilight series are often targeted for their “ungodly” content (i.e. witchcraft, werewolves etc), with challengers failing to note the heroic qualities displayed by those characters, including loyalty, friendship, bravery, and honor. It’s classics heroes and villains. Good versus evil. And it’s FICTION, people!
Drugs: Books advocating the use of drugs are, of course, frequently censored titles; But even books that serve as warning signs against the dangers of drugs have been removed from school libraries. A prime example is “Go Ask Alice,” by Anonymous. Written in the ’70s, it’s been banned in schools from Texas to Michigan.
Nudity: Truth is stranger than fiction, Students can peruse naked bodies in biology textbooks or in museums, but apparently can’t handle any kind of physical descriptions in any kind of fiction. Dori Hillestad Butler’s “My Mom’s Having A Baby!: A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide” was one of the most banned books. Although the book is an instructional guide to what happens when a woman is pregnant, it has been challenged for including nudity.
If you want to stand up for the right to read anything and everything you choose, celebrate banned books week by getting one of those books (or more)!