Banned Books Week 2015 begins today, a week when we celebrate and read books that have been banned by various organisations in the past. For those wondering, books aren’t banned by governments (generally), or are they banned completely. An official ‘banned book’ is a book that has been prohibited in some schools, libraries or districts and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom tracks the complaints keeping abreast of recent and frequently challenged books.
In the age of information where most of us can access pretty much anything from the device in our pockets, banning books seems antiquated, almost quaint but that doesn’t stop people adding to the list each year. If you’re looking for something controversial to pick up this year, then we have five recently challenged books for you, the trouble is many of them aren’t all that controversial showing why this event is so very important!
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Synopsis: This 2007 books follows the life of a 14-year-old boy as he leaves the Spokane Indian Reservation he grew up on to attend an all-white school.
Reasons for Challenge: The complaints range from the book being anti-family, culturally insensitive and including drugs, alcohol and gambling.
Response: After parents’ complains the National Book Award Winner was taken off the 2014 supplemental reading list at Meridian High School, Idaho. It was also removed from the 2015 list of approved books at Texas Highland Park Independent School District.
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
Synopsis: Persepolis is a 2004 graphic novel memoir about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
Reasons for Challenge: The complaints against the book were for gambling, offensive language and its political viewpoint.
Response: The novel was challenged in Chatham, Illinois but hasn’t been removed from the school reading list, but in 2013 the book was banned from 7th grade classrooms in the Chicago Public School system.
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Synopsis: This 2003 novel is about a friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of the family’s servant. The story starts in the 1970s and much of it is set against the backdrop of the political upheaval in Afghanistan.
Reasons for Challenge: Offensive language and violence.
Response: Despite being challenged, The Kite Runner was kept in Wisconsin’s Waukesha West High School’s 2014 curriculum.
And Tango Makes Three – Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Synopsis: This 2005 book is a picture book and is aimed at 2 to 5 year-olds, it’s based on a true story of two male penguins who raised a baby penguin together.
Reasons for Challenge: This innocuous book was challenged for being anti-family, promoting homosexuality, and going against political and religious viewpoints.
Response: Removed from several reading lists, And Tango Makes Three has appeared on the ALA’s list seven times in the last decade.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Synopsis: This 1990 young adult novel about an introverted high-schooler who is befriended by two seniors for an education in growing up and being comfortable inside your skin features sex, drugs and mental health. Although published in 1990, we suspect new popularity after the movie is keeping this one in the ALA’s list.
Reasons for Challenge: This YA novel has been challenged for featuring drugs, alcohol, homosexuality plus mentions of date rape and masturbation.
Response: The book was removed from the freshman English curriculum at high schools in Wallingford, Connecticut in 2015, only to be reinstated this autumn. In 2013 it was removed from 8th grade classrooms in Glen Ellyn, Illinois but the school board also later overturned this decision.
We can only say we very much wish this was the end of the recently challenged books but unfortunately the list gets longer every year! It’s thought that over 1,000 books are challenged each year across the USA and many of the challenges reflect the political maelstrom of the day. I’m sure we don’t need to add that at For Reading Addicts we do not support any form of literary censorship, if a book is not for you put it back for someone else to enjoy.
To celebrate Banned Books Week we are also offering a range of Banned Books apparel in our store, see the full range here in our store.