Okay, I know, Banned Books Week 2013 ended yesterday, falling as it did from September 22 through the 28th, but still outlawing books is just too good a story to pass up, after the fact or not.
There are, after all, always a number of well-intentioned folks out there who are troubled by the contents of certain books—even such classics as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Their goal: removing them from our schools and libraries for a whole host of reasons, including:
- Sexual explicitness
And apparently they’ve been at it ever since the invention of the printing press in 1456. As noted by the ACLU, for instance, back in 1497, Dante’s The Divine Comedy was actually burned for religious reasons, while in 1597 Queen Elizabeth censored parts of Shakespeare’s Tragedy of King Richard II. Even Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible came under fire—literally—in 1624.
It’s a wonder then that we waited until 1982 to establish Banned Books Week. Make no mistake about it, though: The intent here is not to applaud the disallowing of “bad” books but to, instead, celebrate our freedom to make our own choices as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Of course, that doesn’t stop people from trying. In fact, about two weeks ago, the school board in North Carolina’s Randolph County made headlines after it voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man—a National Book Award winner–because an 11th grader’s mom said it was “too much for teenagers.” The good news: it didn’t sit well with most county residents, and nine days later the board rescinded its decision.
And so it goes. As for the most-often challenged books, here’s the 2012 top ten list:
- Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
- Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
- Fifty Shades of Gray, by E.L. James
- And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson
- The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
- Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
- The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
As for the books heading 2013’s list, am afraid we’ll have to wait until this time next year.