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Why We Need Banned Book Week

Updated on September 28, 2011
Banning and Burning books is not a new idea. But perhaps it is an idea which needs to die.
Banning and Burning books is not a new idea. But perhaps it is an idea which needs to die. | Source

Back in 1981, while I was in college, my peers and I were all atwitter about the news that a book Our Bodies our Selves, written by a women’s college collective, was being banned for documenting accurate and detailed information about female health and reproductive systems.

Of course we ran right out, bought a copy, gathered around in the student lounge and read through it.

Ever since that time, I’ve always tried to make it a point of checking out the banned book lists to find the best reading.

And I’m not alone. For the last three decades, the American Library Association has dedicated the last week of September as Banned Books Week, a time when book aficionados celebrate the First Amendment freedom to read. The week also calls attention to why it is important that we as a society encourage freedom of thought, creative exchange of ideas and the damage that can be done when thoughts are limited.

Books, whether hard copies, or ereads, have always been held precious in my family. As a young child I recall spending huge amounts of time in the library. I have imparted that to my children and now my grandchildren. Books are a valuable commodity which must be cherished and preserved, gathered and guarded.

As much as free public education is a cornerstone of our country, free access to books, regardless of their content, is important. And when that is jeopardized, the very foundation of our country is jeopardized.

And yet, even as we venture into the future’s brave new world, more and more people are trying to restrict access to books on all sorts of, and sometimes contradictory, grounds.

And while parents should censor inappropriate reading materials from small children, at what point do we decide what’s inappropriate. And if a book is banned from a library, is that unconstitutional? OR is censorship just the action of small minded people afraid of ideas and thoughts that differ from their own.

I could read Mine Kamp by Adolph Hitler and it wouldn’t make me a Nazi any more than reading Hustler would make me a male.

Censorship by individuals who fight to keep ideas opposite their own from others seems to indicate a fear that in the face of competition, their ideas won’t hold up.

To clarify that point, below are some of the most recent attempts to ban books include:

The dictionary – too many bad words.

Grapes of Wrath – adult language and situations. Isn’t that what adult fiction is all about.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. -12 states including my home state of Illinois had police associations who attempted to remove the book because it portrayed police officers as pigs. No mention was made that all the characters in the children’s book were animals. Only the pigs were an issue.

Beloved – Nothing like banning a Nobel Prize Winning author to shake things up.

Brown Bear Brown Bear: what do you see? One of the two authors had the bad luck to be named after a Marxist philosopher and it didn’t occur to anyone that there could be more than one person with that name.

James and the Giant Peach was accused of obscene and violence. I must have missed that when I saw the movie with my kids.

The Diary of Anne Frank included sexually explicit and homosexual themes. Apparently the hiding out from murder like millions of other Jews wasn’t an issue though.

Little Women – Ok. I give up.

For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway. The first was banned for sexual content, and second because it was deemed pro communist. Written by the same guy who hung out in Cuba prior to Castro’s reign. And in neither case was the violence of war offensive to the censors.

Light in the Attic because it promotes disrespect horror and violence. It’s that what horror stories are supposed to do.

And A Wrinkle in Time because it’s a tale of the battle of good and evil and people didn’t want their children exposed to religious arguments. And this from the same folks who challenged Harry Potter for promoting magic which is akin to demon worship. Really, people, take a position.

And lastly, the list of the most commonly challenged books in the United States and their authors as listed by the American Library Association.

Nineteen Eighty-four (1984) George Orwell

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby Dav Pilkey

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain

Alice series Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

All the King's Men Robert Penn Warren

Always Running Luis J. Rodriguez

American Psycho ret Easton Ellis

An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser

The Anarchist Cookbook William Powell

Anastasia Again! Lois Lowry

And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison

Annie on My Mind Nancy Garden

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume

Arming America Michael Bellasiles

Arizona Kid Ron Koertge

As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

Asking About Sex and Growing Up Joanna Cole

Athletic Shorts Chris Crutcher

Black Boy Richard Wright

Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo A. Anaya

Blood and Chocolate Annette Curtis Klause

Blubber Judy Blume

The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison

The Boy Who Lost His Face Louis Sachar

Boys and Sex Wardell Pomeroy

Brave New World Aldous Huxley

Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

Bumps in the Night Harry Allard

The Call of the Wild Jack London

Captain Underpants Dav Pilkey

Carrie Stephen King

The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger

Catch-22 Joseph Heller

Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut

The Chocolate War Robert Cormier

Christine Stephen King

A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess

The Color Purple Alice Walker

Crazy Lady! Jane Conly

Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat Alvin Schwartz

Cujo Stephen King

Curses, Hexes and Spells Daniel Cohen

Cut Patricia McCormick

Daddy's Roommate Michael Willhoite

A Day No Pigs Would Die Robert Newton Peck

The Dead Zone Stephen King

Deenie Judy Blume

Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds

The Drowning of Stephan Jones Bette Greene

Earth's Children (series) Jean M. Auel

The Exorcist William Peter Blatty

The Face on the Milk Carton Caroline B. Cooney

Fade Robert Cormier

Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers

Family Secrets Norma Klein

Final Exit Derek Humphry

Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes

Forever Judy Blume

Girls and Sex Wardell Pomeroy

The Giver Lois Lowry

Go Ask Alice Anonymous

Go Tell It on the Mountain James Baldwin

The Goats Brock Cole

Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

Goosebumps (series) R. L. Stine

The Great Gilly Hopkins atherine Paterson

Guess What? Mem Fox

Halloween ABC Eve Merriam

The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood

Harry Potter (series) J. K. Rowling

Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad

Heather Has Two Mommies esléa Newman

The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende

How to Eat Fried Worms Thomas Rockwell

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou

In Cold Blood Truman Capote

In the Night Kitchen Maurice Sendak

Invisible Man Ralph Ellison

It's Perfectly Normal Robie Harris

It's So Amazing Robie Harris

Jack A. M. Homes

ay's Journal Anonymous

Julie of the Wolves Jean Craighead George

Jump Ship to Freedom James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Jumper Steven Gould

The Jungle Upton Sinclair

Kaffir Boy Mark Mathabane

Killing Mr. Griffin Lois Duncan

Lady Chatterley's Lover . H. Lawrence

Little Black Sambo Helen Bannerman

Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies William Golding

Mommy Laid An Egg Babette Cole

My Brother Sam Is Dead James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

The Naked and the Dead Norman Mailer

Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs

Native Son Richard Wright

The New Joy of Gay Sex Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

On My Honor Marion Dane Bauer

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey

Ordinary People Judith Guest

The Outsiders S. E. Hinton

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett

The Pigman Paul Zindel

Private Parts Howard Stern

Rabbit, Run John Updike

The Rabbit's WeddingG arth Williams

Rainbow Boys Alex Sanchez

Running Loose Chris Crutcher

The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie

Scary Stories (series) Alvin Schwartz

A Separate Peace John Knowles

Sex Madonna

Sex Education Jenny Davis

Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut

The Sledding Hill hris Crutcher

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy A. N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Song of Solomon (novel) Toni Morrison

Sons and Lovers D. H. Lawrence

The Stupids (series) Harry Allard

Summer of My German Soldier Bette Greene

The Sun Also Rises rnest Hemingway

That Was Then, This Is Now S. E. Hinton

Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston

Tiger Eyes Judy Blume

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller

Ulysses James Joyce

View from the Cherry Tree Willo Davis Roberts

We All Fall Down Robert Cormier

Whale Talk Chris Crutcher

What My Mother Doesn't Know Sonya Sones

What's Happening to My Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons

Lynda Madaras

What's Happening to My Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters

Lynda Madaras

Where Did I Come From? Peter Mayle

The Wish Giver Bill Brittain

The Witches Roald Dahl

Women in Love D. H. Lawrence

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual Fantasies

Nancy Friday

Now get to the book store or local library or fire up your ereader and get started.


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    • Winter Maclen profile image

      Chris 6 years ago from Illinois

      I really want to believe that certain thoughts rice to their own level. I mean when they stop trying to ban some bad books, people aren't interested and don't read them. On the other hand, I agree completely, some of the reasons - like the dictionary - how can you even defend that?

    • profile image

      Kathy 6 years ago

      Very eye opening!

    • Rehana Stormme profile image

      Rehana Stormme 6 years ago

      Banning a book would only give it more publicity and higher sales! But some of the reasons why certain books are banned are just pathetic.

      Great hub, voted up and awesome!

    • Winter Maclen profile image

      Chris 6 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for the comments. I've been following banned book week since college when I wrote a piece for the college paper. I can't believe anyone could think this is a hoax. Every year things pop up in the national papers about various books being the target of folks afraid of the ideas they contain.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      I remember hearing as a kid that we weren't supposed to read Twain he was satirical. Hey, that's what I love about him.

      great hub

    • K. Burns Darling profile image

      Kristen Burns-Darling 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      I first wrote about ALA's banned book week a few months ago, and you are definitely correct when you say that we need banned book week. I received a couple of comments that called it a hoax, and defended their comments by stating that no books have recently been banned. While it may be true that no books have been banned nationally in a few years, it is also true that books are targeted all of the time, and that if we take the pressure off of those who would like to ban books, we will be setting ourselves up for exactly that. Great hub, voted useful, awesome, and interesting.