Celebrating Banned Books Week!

This week (September 24-30) marks the beginning of Banned Books Week! During this week, libraries, teachers, and bookstores all around the country encourage you to use your First Amendment rights and read banned and challenged books. 

Why do we celebrate Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 by librarian activist, Judith Krug. Krug, in partnership with the American Library Association, wanted to draw attention to the issue of censorship after the group Moral Majority, led by televangelist Jerry Falwell, began challenging books in public and school libraries. Censorship incidents jumped from 300 in 1980 to nearly 1,000 in 1982. Banned Books Week was founded as a response to this quest for censorship and has been quite successful. In 2016, 323 challenges were reported to the American Library Association.

Book challenges (3)_0

Challenges do not always equal a ban. A challenge is the attempt to remove a book from an institution (i.e. schools and libraries), while a ban is the actual removal of that title. This distinction is important to consider. Challenging a book may, in fact, lead to an open discussion about that book’s themes and engage a community. However, if a challenge leads to a ban (it is the first step of a ban, after all), that discussion is cut off.

An argument may be presented that “banning” a book from a library doesn’t totally restrict access to that book. After all, Amazon exists, as well as a host of other retailers. But that’s the problem. Banning a book from a library restricts the FREE access of that book. Libraries exist to serve the entire community, including those who need free access to information. Judith Krug illustrated this point in 2002:

‚ÄúSome users find materials in their local library collection to be untrue, offensive, harmful or even dangerous. But libraries serve the information needs of all of the people in the community‚ÄĒnot just the loudest, not just the most powerful, not even just the majority. Libraries serve everyone.‚ÄĚ

It is precisely because libraries serve everyone that one group cannot be allowed to decide what is offensive to everyone. Literature is an art form, and as such, it is subjective. It is our job as librarians to ensure that every member of our community has equal access to that art. As the old saying goes: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

BBW.17.IF

How do I celebrate Banned Books Week?

By reading a banned book, of course! Many books have been banned over the course of history, including classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Call of the Wild, and Beloved. You can find a full list of banned books that helped shape America here.

As discussed above, before books are banned, they are first challenged. The top ten challenged books of 2016 are listed below. Titles with links will take you directly to our catalog, where you can see if the book is available or place a hold!

Top10_0

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint
  3. George written by Alex Gino
    Reasons:¬†challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the ‚Äúsexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels‚ÄĚ
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan
    Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green
    Reasons:¬†challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to ‚Äúsexual experimentation‚ÄĚ
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
    Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk
    Reasons:¬†challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being ‚Äúdisgusting and all around offensive‚ÄĚ
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
    Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell
    Reason: challenged for offensive language

Go forth and celebrate your First Amendment rights!

You may want to read many of the banned/challenged books in these lists, or none at all. Celebrating Banned Books Week is as much about reading what you desire as it is about not infringing on the rights of others to do the same.

Let us know what banned or challenged book you’re reading in the comments below!

 

Sources: 

A. (2017, April). The State of America’s Libraries 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/news/sites/ala.org.news/files/content/State-of-Americas-Libraries-Report-2017.pdf

About. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/about

Crum, M. (2015, September 28). This Is Why You Should Celebrate Banned Books Week. Retrieved September 19, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/celebrate-banned-books-week_us_56096a1ae4b0768126fe4cca

Jerry Falwell, Judith Krug, and the Origins of ‚ÄėBanned Books¬†Week‚Äô. (2015, October 02). Retrieved September 19, 2017, from https://longreads.com/2015/10/02/jerry-falwell-judith-krug-and-the-origins-of-banned-books-week/

 

Advertisements

Featured Author: Harper Lee

We’ve had a featured book in the past, but what about those people who write the books? We often love the works that they put out for us to enjoy, but how much do we really know about them. Sometimes we know a lot (like they were movie stars), and other times we barely know anything about them. This time we will be looking at a woman who is putting out her second book after 55 years, Nelle Harper Lee.

Biography

harper-lee

Just like her character Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, she was the youngest child of a lawyer father in the state of Alabama. She was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, AL. She grew up friends with another future author, Truman Persons aka Truman Capote. After graduating high school, she went to Huntingdon College in Alabama for a short while, then transferred to the University of Alabama. At UA, she chose to pursue her interest in writing by contributing to the university’s newspaper and humor magazine. She then dropped out of school and moved to New York City,¬†where she befriended¬†Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy. The two decided to support Lee for a whole year so she could devote herself to writing full time. They also helped her find and agent, Maurice Crain. Lee and Crain worked together and got a publishing firmed interested in her first book, Go Set a Watchmen (which was eventually renamed and reworked to¬†To Kill a Mockingbird).

1966, Holcomb, Kansas --- Truman Capote signing copies of his book  with Harper Lee.  Capote and Lee are in Kansas during  the making of the film of the same name.   --- Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis
Harper Lee and Truman Capote- Image by © Steve Schapiro/Corbis

Before the publication of her first novel, she began working with Truman Capote on an article he was writing about the murders of Herbert Clutter, his wife, and two children. The two traveled to Kansas to do interviews with friends, family, and townspeople, along with the main investigators of the case. They even had the opportunity to interview the murders after they were captured. The article turned into Capote’s In Cold Blood. Even though he didn’t acknowledge her contributions to the book, Lee received one of the dedications to the book.

“Harper Lee Medal” by Eric Draper

After the success of her book, she took a posting to the National Council of the Arts. Yet during the 70s and 80s she began to retreat from a public life, and became more and more private. During this time she began work on a non-fiction book about a serial killer in Alabama, but eventually stopped working on it. To this day, she remains an active member of both her church and community, while remaining as private as possible.

The Future

gosetawatchman

Tomorrow, Lee will be releasing her second book, Go Set a Watchman. The book takes place 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird, and is set with Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s return to Maycomb, AL. The book will tell about the characters adjusting to the changing cultural and political environments of the 50s.

You can get the book at bookstores, on eBook, and even at your local library. Give the book a read and tell us what you think. Does it hold up to the original?

Published Works

References