Today marks the end of Banned Books Week, a mini-holiday within the library community. The week celebrates the freedom to read and highlights the value of free and open access to information.
Books are challenged in libraries more frequently than you might think. A challenge means that the book is requested to be censored, restricted or removed from the collection all together based on specific objections. Reasons vary from the material being uneducational or inaccurate to sexually explicit or having offensive language.
From a library’s point of view, we don’t like to see challenges because of intellectual freedom. Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. In a day to day context, it means that if you walk into your local Delaware County District Library and ask for information on a subject, a librarian will not filter you from the results, regardless of his or her personal point of view.
I hope you further our celebration beyond this week by taking a look at a challenged book. The worst it might do is change your perspective. Of the 323 challenges recorded by the American Library Association in 2016, the list below shows the top ten challenged books, their reasons for being challenged and a brief description.
10. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell. Offensive Language. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, the story of two star-crossed misfits — smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave enough to try.
9. “Little Bill” by Bill Cosby. Criminal Sexual Allegations Against the Author. When a new boy in class tries to get the other students to play a game that involves saying the meanest things possible to one another, Little Bill shows him a better way to make friends.
8. “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread” by Chuck Palahniuk. Profanity. Sexually Explicit. Disgusting & All-Around Offensive. Twenty-one stories and one novella, from a precursor story of “Fight Club” to a son’s final moments with his father.
7. “Big Hard Sex Criminals” by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. Sexually Explicit. Collects the first ten issues of the comic “Sex Criminals,” following Suzie and Jon who, after discovering that they can stop time while having sex, use this ability to rob banks.
6. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green. Sexually Explicit. Sixteen-year-old Miles’ first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks, but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.
5. “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan. Cover Has an Image of Two Boys Kissing. Sexually Explicit LGBT. A chorus of men who have died of AIDS observes and yearns to help a cross-section of today’s gay teens who navigate new love, long-term relationships, coming out, self-acceptance and more in a society that has changed in many ways.
4. “I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Transgender Child. Offensive Language. Sex Education. Offensive Viewpoints. Presents the story of a transgender child who traces her early awareness that she is a girl in spite of male anatomy and the acceptance she finds through a wise doctor who explains her natural transgender status.
3. “George” by Alex Gino. Transgender Child. Inappropriate Sexuality at Elementary Levels. George knows she’s a girl and thinks she’ll keep this a secret forever, until she comes up with a plan that lets her play Charlotte in the school play “Charlotte’s Web” and let everyone know who she is.
2. “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier. LGBT Characters. Sexually Explicit. Offensive Political Viewpoint. Designing sets for her middle school’s play, Callie tries to overcome limited carpentry skills and squabbling crew members only to find her efforts further complicated by the arrival of two cute brothers.
1. “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki. LGBT Characters. Drug Use. Profanity. Sexually Explicit. Rose’s latest summer at a beach lake house is overshadowed by her parents’ constant arguments, her younger friend’s secret sorrows, and the dangerous activities of older teens.