Banned Books Week

I didn't realize it, but I just found out that it's Banned Books Week. Go out and buy or read a book that people have tried to ban!

You can start here.

I still can't believe that the Harry Potter series, Madame L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon (among many other rather hard-to-believe candidates for banning) have kept ending up on this list over the last 15 years.


  1. I've been into Banned Books week for... well, this is the second time I will be celebrating it. I ran into the ALA banned/challenged books list last summer. =Þ

    Earlier this year, the Blue Valley school district in Kansas opted to ban This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff, so I immediately went to my local library and read it. =Þ

  2. I'm... startled. Or I would be if they were clearer on what constitutes a 'challenge'. The list is so - well, anal that I'm suspicious of low redefinition. So, what does make a 'challenge'? A legal attempt to remve a book from circulation? A parental complaint that a book ought not be shelved in the children's section of the local library? A suggestion the 'On Pandas and People' should not be included in the Science section?

    A look at the site suggests that a single irate parent's demand that a book be removed from a single school library (or even from a curriculum!) would count as an attempt to 'ban' that book - suggesting to me that the dire warnings of the encroachment of censorship are perhaps a little misplaced. Personally, I'd call that low redefinition of the word 'to ban'.

    No one really believes in making any and all books readily available to children of all ages, especially in school: I would object to the inclusion of holocaust revisionist versions of history books in my child's school, for example, though I would never attempt to ban them or to insist they not be available in public libraries.

    There seems to be no sensible bar set for what constitutes a 'challenge' here. Surely parents have a right to say if they think a book is inappropriate for their child's school library - even if it's down to the educators to make the decisions. Parental input could be important in maintaining the quality of a library; providing a) the actual 'censorship' decisions rest with the school and b) the school has a clear library policy then giving parents (and others) a voice is no bad thing.

    Of course, a request to remove Harry Potter from shelves is laughable - but it scarcely constitutes an attempt to ban the book, and as long as it remains laughable then where's the harm?

  3. I think the broadness of the definition is necessary for two reason. First, it makes listkeeping easy: instead of having definitional fights every time something comes up, it just goes on the list. Second, we live in a society without (much) formal censorship, but one of the great values of the Banned Book Week event is that it highlights the fact that we are exceptional. The fact that I've read about 20% of the list (and could read the rest of it if I chose) highlights the problem in places like China, where censorship is very heavy-handed, or India, where "cultural sensitivity" severely distorts the availability of books, or many other places where information on health and sexuality is restricted.

  4. Give the list to your kids teachers, and ask that they assign the books. If your kid is in high school, suggest to the English teacher that they should do the same, and have the kids write on the banning of books.

    And, if a book is banned where you live, demand that it be un-banned.

  5. Don't forget that the Library Bill of Rights exists by our librarians' dedication to deter the labeling books by parents, teachers and principals of school libraries and the boards of public libraries.
    Thanks for your blog!


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