Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Book Reading and The Great Censorship Debate

Looking for something great to read? You only have to look at some banned/challenged book lists to find some pretty fabulous reads! I sure enjoyed these books:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

And from this list of challenged children's books

Holes by Louis Sachar (seriously?)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Did they actually read this title and find something objectionable?)
The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (this is one of the first books I recall reading and LOVING)
Catherine Called Birdy and Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
The Giver by Lois Lowry - seriously SO fabulous
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen - I'm currently listening to the audio version
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
Squashed by Joan Bauer
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Makes you wonder if those school required reading lists are taken directly from banned books lists :)

Also, I've read some interesting thoughts about censorship recently. This article from the Wall Street Journal takes the opposite view of many promoting Banned Books Week. I suggest you read it, since I am going to talk about some of Mr. Muncy's points.

I agree with Mr. Muncy that sometimes advocates of the freedom to read can go too far in their statements about those who file complaints about books. They call them names and make fun of them, but it is a parent's First Amendment right to protest something he or she does not like. However, after a complaint is made, if a parent desires to force that opinion on other people, that is where he or she crosses the line in free speech. It is a fine line to walk, but both sides need to be more respectful.

I also got a bit miffed when Mr. Muncy described librarians as having "hidden verdicts" in regards to acquiring materials. All libraries have a collection development policy in place and it is almost always available to view upon request. Specific guidelines have been set forth for what will be added to the collection based on many things: the purpose of the library, the community it serves, etc. Librarians are not picking books based on subjective likes or dislikes. They have to follow those criteria and while it involves judgements, they are trained to make those judgements, which can be based on things like positive reviews in journals or popular demand. Obviously these criteria are not going to be "what everybody wants" because everybody wants something different. And each library will be different from others depending on the location, community, and other factors.

Whew, sorry for that side rant, but I don't like attacks on librarians (imagine that).

Anyway, here are a few other links to some interesting discussions on censorship, challenges, and banning:

Comments on James Dashner's post are quite interesting.
Nathan Bransford also has some questions about parental discretion vs. censorship.

Any thoughts, strong opinions, or rants you'd like to share?


  1. I also thought that the comment about librarians was very unfair. They're educated, knowledgeable, and trained to do the work they do, and deserve a lot more credit than they get. (Can you tell I want to be one? :P)

  2. Nymeth, I think you'd make a FABULOUS librarian. I, of course, think they deserve more credit than they get!

  3. I will never understand how some of these books make it on these lists.

    The comments on James Dashner's post were hilarious.

    And really (like I said on his post) I think there's a big difference between objecting to something as required reading and removing it from a library, but at the end of the day, if the teacher wants to keep the book, you have the right to insist your child be given an alternate assignment. But please, for the love of all that is good and holy, READ the book first!

  4. I think it's hilarious that I'm involved in a book challenge while Banned Book Week is about. The patron doesn't want to ban it, but put it in another area. Should be an interesting meeting next week.

  5. Britt, I completely agree! Especially in the actual reading of the book.

    Sharon, that is perfect timing! Good luck with the meeting.

  6. The funny thing about the whole thing, is that the more "fuss" these people make about certain books, the more interest these books are getting! It's a great way for the classics especially, to get recirculated...and enjoyed...by a new generation.

  7. pippirose, I completely agree - what a great way to get people interested in those old classics - and newer books too!


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