This week marks the thirty-first annual Banned Books Week, a celebration of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read sponsored by the American Library Association. In honor of the event, I thought I’d share some stories of books that have been banned or challenged recently.
This first story isn’t technically a book banning so much as an author banning, but it still caught my attention. Earlier this month, author Meg Medina was uninvited from a school visit because she refused to refrain from mentioning the title of her latest book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, or showing the cover art during her talk. Sure, the title may be a little colorful, but the book is about bullying. It may be a difficult topic to talk about, but I think it’s an important one, and Medina’s talk could have fostered a really beneficial discussion at that school.
In March 2013, Chicago Public Schools removed Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a graphic memoir about growing up during the Iranian Revolution because of graphic images, from the seventh grade curriculum. Original interpretations of this were that the book had been banned by the schools, leading to student and parent protests and a letter by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarifying that the ban applied only to the seventh grade curriculum. Publisher’s Weekly published a good summary of the incident on March 21.
One of my favorite banned books is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Often challenged because of swearing and racial slurs (the narrator, Junior, lives on a Native American reservation and uses some of the more colorful slang of “the res”). I didn’t find the language overly objectionable, and I think it’s a great way to expose young adults to a way of life they may not be familiar with while also delving into a lot of universal themes. For those who are unfamiliar with the book, this coming-of-age story chronicles Junior’s struggles after he decides to leave the reservation and go to the “white school.” Yes, there is blatant racism in this book; but it’s not promoting racism. On the contrary, it makes readers more aware of prejudices against Native Americans and seeks to diffuse those notions.
For more banned books, check out the American Library Association’s lists top ten banned or challenged books by year or their lists of 100 most frequently challenged books 1990-1999 and 2000-2009.
What are some of your favorite banned books?