This week, the American Library Association is celebrating Banned Books Week to promote the importance of the First Amendment and the problems of censorship by spotlighting books that have been challenged or banned. As part of Banned Books Week, hundreds of libraries and bookstores across the country will create displays of challenged books.
According to the ALA, books are challenged when someone attempts “… to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.” If a challenge is successful and the materials are removed from school curricula or libraries, they are considered banned.
Did you know that The Hunger Games and Twilight were two of the top ten most challenged books last year? And one of the most frequently challenged authors in 2010 was Judy Blume? Books in the beloved Harry Potter series have landed on the list as well.
I don’t know why, but I was surprised to learn that “parents challenge materials more often than any other group.” Most of their objections involve an attempt to protect children from violence, bad language, sexuality, or difficult or objectionable concepts. For instance, as recently as 2009, the book To Kill A Mockingbird has been challenged and even banned for the use of the “n-word.”
The ALA says most challenges fail because the books are successfully defended by librarians, teachers, parents and students.
The most commonly banned and challenged classics include:
- The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
- 1984, by George Orwell
- Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
- Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
- As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
- A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
I guess I must have been lucky to live in a pretty free and open school district, because we read many of these. Thank goodness for the people who fight back to make sure these books are available to all. Thank goodness for the freedom to read!
Tell us: What is your favorite banned book?