Friday, 27 September 2013

Happy Banned Books Week!

It's Banned Books Week - a week celebrating the freedom to read books! It's all about bringing people together to support all types of books and ideas, whether they are orthodox or not, and to discourage the banning and restriction of books as much as possible. In America especially, librarians, publishers, schools and bookshops get alot of complaints and challenges against a book being published or made available each year, for various reasons, and although unfortunately some of them do get banned or removed, Banned Books Week wants to celebrate those that are still available.

I think Banned Books Week has become a truly recognizable campaign to bring awareness to those books that have been banned or challenged but are available for anyone to read now. It has also become an iconic national event now, encouraging extra awareness of particular books that were banned. There are even tote bags!

To me, there are a few books from many decades ago that really stand out as the famous banned books, back when censorship was enforced and controversy was frowned upon. Two of the main ones are 'A Clockwork Orange' as well as 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' which would have been considered the 20's version of 50 shades of Grey. Although they may be considered tame to us now, I do understand why the authorities used to deem these books worthy of banning at the time, when things were more reserved and censored and the encouragement of such behaviour was unimaginable (although I'm glad they're have been released now!). But browsing through the lists of some of the most challenged books, especially from last year, it really does make me wonder what people are complaining about enough to consider banning them.

In 2012, 464 books were challenged in America, these are the top 10 most challenged out of that number and why:
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
I also found this campaign poster in my Banned Books search - in America, some books are banned to protect children yet guns aren't. It really makes you re-evaluate priorities when spelt out like that.

I can understand that some books may be more explicit and inappropriate for young people to read, but isn't the point of books to be able to express these things? Noone ever wants to encourage people to do drugs or be violent etc, but books allow people to read about issues, learn about them and also relate them. Additionally, some of the reasons raised seem abit extreme to justify banning book, such as religious viewpoint or offensive language. Every writer and book have their own view points and plot styles, even if it doesn't agree with your own ways of thinking, doesn't mean it should be removed completely? If we did that, probably every book could be removed!
People can't stop these negative issues happening in the world, so why stop the books that confront them?

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, this makes me mad! Banning books because of silly things. Homosexuality isn't something that should be banned it should be read more! I think people mollycoddle kids too much nowadays. When I was young my parents encouraged me to read books that were seen to be out of my age range (and if they didn't want me to read it I would read them anyway) and if anything out made me aware of all the good and bad things in life from a young age which is something I feel is a good thing. I am so glad this campaign is happening!