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Banned Books Week: What You Need to Know

Censorship is alive and well, as highlighted by Banned Books Week—and you might be surprised by some of the most-challenged titles over the past year.

Public libraries across the country, including here in Macomb Township, are encouraging people to peak into some controversial books in honor of this being Banned Books Week.

The annual event has been held since 1982 during the last week of September to remind Americans "not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted," according to the American Library Association.

Jamie Morris, community relations specialist for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, said CMPL has never removed a book from its selves because of a complaint or challenge.

"We make people aware of Banned Books Week to remind the community that the library is a place for everyone," Morris said. "The librarians collect materials that will appeal to a broad number of people and while there may be books here that not everyone likes, we hope that since we have such a large collection that everyone will be able to find something that appeals to them. It’s about the freedom to choose what you read and what you don’t."

Last year, there were 326 challenges reported to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, based on everything from offensive language, to violence, insensitivity, religious viewpoint and sexual explicitness. In addition to those challenges, the ALA estimates that as many as 60 to 70 percent of challenges may go unreported.

Over the past year, the 10 most challenged titles were:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Among banned and challenged classics you’re likely familiar with are:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Beloved and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

If you’re interested in celebrating Banned Books Week as part of a lesson for your kids—or simply to feel like a rebellious reader—check out these additional resources:

Mike Reno October 03, 2012 at 05:25 PM
There are multiple parts to this story. One is whether a book -- any book -- should be banned from a public library (it should not). The other is whether some books should be challenged for use in schools. Sadly, the ALA makes no distinction whatsoever. The ALA Seal should read like a warning label to parents. The challenges that I've seen have nothing to do with "censorship" or "banning". They instead question whether a book should be assigned reading for children, or should instead be a independent reading assignment approved by informed and consenting parents. Some of these books have topics and language that are banned from television, and certainly from this very website. Maybe I should post some passages and see how long the posting will remain on the site? Parents that would not let their "tween" and early-teen children see an "R" rated movie unknowingly let their children read books that are much more vivid and graphic... and Teacher/School approved. And of course, the book is always better than the movie, right? We all need to ban together against censorship and removing books from libraries. But some of these ALA crusades attempt to camouflage books that many parents would be shocked if they were to read them. And the ALA attempt to vilify anyone who dares to question the wisdom of exposing our children to very graphic content. This is not as simple and straightforward a topic as they'd like you to believe.

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