From the Library: Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week, which means that schools and libraries across the US are rallying readers in order to celebrate access to information while bringing attention to the realities of censorship.

The American Library Association explains BBW:

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 stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received 460 reports on efforts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves in 2009. Let's take a look at a few of the books that have been banned (or challenged) over the past few years.

And Tango Makes Three, written by Just Richardson and Peter Parnell, is a 2005 children's book that tells a super sweet (and true!) story about two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who love each other and hatch a chick together at the New York's Central Park Zoo. According to the ALA, this book has also been one of the most heavily challenged books every year since being published.

Just a little over a week ago, Wesley Scoggins wrote an opinion piece which characterized Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak as "filthy and immoral", citing the book as "soft pornography" because of two rape scenes. Anderson responded to his piece by saying that "the fact that he sees rape as sexually exciting (pornographic) is disturbing, if not horrifying." Agreed.

Oh, and then there was the time when Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was pulled from an eight grade class because of the following passage:

There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!

You know what they say you should do during Banned Books Week? Read a banned book! If you're in Portland and feel like stopping by the library this week, we'll have a selection of banned books showcased and available to be checked out. And don't forget to stop by the Uncensored Celebration at Holocene this Wednesday night, where our own Andi Zeisler will be reading during a celebration of banned and challenged books.

As for the rest of you? Let us know what your all-time favorite banned book is. And hopefully you'll find some time to re-read it this week.

by Ashley McAllister
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14 Comments Have Been Posted

Oh Goodness!

I love Banned Books Week. I have my degree in English Literature, and nothing upsets and angers me more than when I hear about a book that is being challenged. My favorite is when someone who hasn't even read the damn book decides it should be banned. I find it horrifying to hear about a parent or an educator who decides that just because *they* don't like it, no one should be able to. It's kind of the same argument they use for other political issues like gay marriage and abortion. but that's another discussion for another time. And also in regards to banning books, I feel that schools allow too much power to parents. I can understand not wanting your child to read a book with a swear word in it, but to ruin it for other children is just ridiculous. Parents need to realize that parenting and learning is at home, and educating is at school. Parents have every right to object to materials, but I don't feel they have the right to outright demand that it be banned. they can have their own child not read it.

Anyways, my absolutest favoritest is when Fahrenheit 451 is banned. I just find that hilarious, personally. Bad, but hilarious. But as to which is my favorite book that has been bad, there are just too many to be listed.

But if I had to choose, it would be the Harry Potter series, banned for "promoting witchcraft."

Yes, and...

The ban of <i>Speak</i> is similarly ironic to that of <i>Fahrenheit 451</i>. <i>Speak</i> is about not letting oneself be silenced by sexual abusers in a society that pretends they don't exist -- hence the title! -- and banning it basically conveys that this message is wrong and the stories of victims should indeed be silenced. I actually think being required to read it in high school is a wonderful idea; I know it doubtlessly would have improved <i>my</i> teenage life.

Scroggins' article has already succeeded in getting <i>Slaughterhouse-Five</i> removed from the high school and <i>Twenty Boy Summer</i> into questioning. (The latter is the one Scroggins condemned with that unforgettable "they use their condoms to have sex" line.) At least the superintendent is defending the challenged books, particularly <i>Speak</i>. I wrote to the school principal and the editor of the <i>News-Leader</i> and received no response from either beyond "thank you." Luckily, I'm not alone; there are a number of encouraging pieces printed under <a href="">"Reader Letters."</a>


"They use their condoms to have sex."

Makes you wonder what Scroggins uses his condoms for...

@ TheBadassMuppet: I

@ TheBadassMuppet: I completely agree with you that <i>Speak</i> should be required high school reading. It's definitely the most eye-opening book I read when I was in high school. I first read it when I was in 11th grade and I remember it being the first time that I really thought about rape and the impact that it has on the survivor.

I'm going to have to give <I>Twenty Boy Summer</i> a read. So thanks to Scroggins for introducing me to <a href=" Ockler</a>! I love it when books being challenged/banned gets more people to read them.

<b>Ashley McAllister, Library Coordinator</b>
<a href="/comments-policy">Did someone say <em>Comments Policy</em>?</a>

even mroe ridiculous

I can actually top that. <i>The Day They Came to Arrest the Book</i> is a YA novel about a school's efforts to ban Huckleberry Finn and the resulting conflict between students, teachers, parents, and media. It was banned for promoting "an inflammatory challenge to authoritarian roles."

hahahahahahahahahahaha! I

hahahahahahahahahahaha! I love it! they're just totally proving the author's point. I bet the author just sat there and laughed when that happened. And in a way, it's a victory. By them banning it, they're essentially saying that they're the idiots in the book who are trying to ban Huckleberry Finn. I love it when life imitates art.

Now, where'd I put my "I READ BANNED BOOKS" pin?

Thank you for addressing the campaign against <i>Speak</i>. It may be the most harmful I've ever seen, and it just makes it worse that Scroggins' several-sentence long condemnation isn't even factually accurate. (He derides it for "two rape scenes" when there is only one brief and vague one, told in flashback. It's squarely a story about overcoming trauma.)

My own favorite banned book is probably the YA coming out story <i>Annie on My Mind</i>. Amongst literature for adults, it may have to be <i>Ulysses</i>.

Celebrating the freedom to read!

All of these books are amazing, and it always makes me so angry to see people trying to decide what other people shouldn't read. Banned Books Week is such an important event to raise awareness and get people excited about reading these books. It is ironic that the banned books are often the best books out there- Newbery Award Winners, Printz Award Winners, etc. Yet, we can't have anyone thinking for themselves or having a different opinion! That would just be un-American... Argh. I will definitely be celebrating my freedom to read for Banned Books Week and throughout the year! Thanks for the great post!


So, that last comment had to be resubmitted 4 times because it kept triggering the spam filter and was censored...

I love The Diary of Anne

I love <i>The Diary of Anne Frank</i>, but I think my top favorites would be <i>To Kill a Mockingbird</i> and <i>The Catcher in the Rye</i>. And of course Harry Potter!

I think the reasoning behind banning books is ridiculous. What someone reads should be up to them or, if they're too young, their parents. It is up to them what subject matter is inappropriate or not. No one should be able to tell someone else what they can and cannot read. It's crazy!

All this reminds me of a woman in my hometown who used to constantly challenge books in the school libraries because they mentioned the Holocaust as being true. Yes, she didn't believe the Holocaust happened, so she didn't believe there should be any books available to students mentioning it. Year after year it happened, and a lot of the time my mom would purposely go out and get the book and tell me I should read it (she never made me) because I should know what people are trying to hide.

See, I'm the type of person,

See, I'm the type of person, if she were a mom in the PTA and I were a mom in the PTA at the same school, I would probably stand up and give her a public ass-whopping in the form of a verbal beatdown. Verbally, of course :-) I would probably tell her to go back to the hole she crawled out of and take her sheer stupidity (Seriously folks, people who believe the Holocaust never happened are lacking any kind of intelligence, not to sound ableist or anything, but COME ON!!! It's like denying the dinosaurs existed) and to please, not inflict it on anyone else.

And another thing, I don't think people should be able to pick and choose what they believe in. Imagine if I wanted to ban books because they mention the sky and I don't believe the sky exists. And not in a metaphorical or existential way.

And Tango Makes an awesome book

We sometimes read And Tango Makes Three at the preschool I teach at! The kids love it... probably mostly because it's about penguins... but it's seriously so sweet and I feel like it's not completely going over the kid's heads because are a few who come from same-sex parents.

Also read: The Sissy Ducking

Love reading these

Love reading these comments--they're helping me formulate my reading list! I've got to say my personal favorite is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I first read it in high school, and it impacts me as much now as it did then. Books are supposed to challenge us intellectually, personally, and morally, and there's not much I fear more than a society that can't appreciate that.

One of my favorite commonly band book

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Read it!!!!!


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