Sunday, September 26, 2021

It's Banned Books Week.

Today is the first day of this year's Banned Books Week. The event is sponsored by a coalition of groups, including the American Library Association (ALA), the American Booksellers Association, the Association of University Presses, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, and the People for the American Way Foundation.

This year's slogan is: "Books Unite Us -- Censorship Divides Us." The organizers are sponsoring a whole bunch of events this week, many of them virtual; if you're not Zoomed out yet, you can check out the list here.

So which books are we talking about? The ALA put out a list earlier this year of the top 10 most-often-challenged books of 2020. Here they are, with title, author(s), and a short description of the reason why people didn't want them in their library.

  1. George by Alex Gino. LGBTQIA+ content and conflicting with a religious viewpoint.
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. "Selective storytelling incidents" and "does not encompass racism among all people." Also folks didn't like Kendi's public comments.
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Profanity, drug use, alcoholism, and containing anti-police views and "divisive topics".
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Rape, profanity, contained a political viewpoint, and was biased against male students.
  5. The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Profanity and sexual references.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. "Divisive language" and was thought to promote anti-police views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Racial slurs and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Racial slurs and racial stereotypes.
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Sexually explicit and contains child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Profanity and was thought to promote an anti-police message.
You might have noted a theme here: Seven of the ten books are about race or an "anti-police message" -- which is to say the challenges might be the result of the Black Lives Matter protests last year, although To Kill a Mockingbird and The Bluest Eye are perennials on the list. 

And these are just the top 10. In all, more than 270 books were challenged last year, and while there was an increase in requests to ban books about minority issues, the biggest reason people wanted certain books gone was LGBTQIA+ content.

Every year I say I'm going to read more banned books, and every year I realize I've only read a couple of the books on the list. For example, I've yet to pick up Sherman Alexie's book, even though it has been on the list more than once over the past several years, and I'm kicking myself because he is hilarious. So on the Kindle it goes -- along with George, which I just found out is about a girl who was born a boy. Hoo boy, no wonder the prudes want it banned. Looking forward to reading that one!

Happy reading!


These moments of subversive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

No comments: