Surprisingly enough, they all share the dubious distinction of being among the top 10 most frequently challenged or banned books in the United States in 2015.
At #6, The Holy Bible makes its first appearance ever on an annual ALA list of challenged titles. According to Alison Flood in a recent article in the Guardian, James La Rue, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, theorizes that users object to the Bible’s presence in libraries because of its “religious viewpoint. . . . people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of the Bible, it’s a violation of church and state.” La Rue explains further that “sometimes there’s a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible.”
What is a “challenged” or “banned book,” you may ask? Here’s how the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom defines both in paragraph 4 of its Banned and Challenged Books page:
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.
To counteract these threats amounting to censorship, The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors Banned Books Week every year to encourage readers to check out challenged or banned books and make their own decisions about the books they read. This year Banned Books Week is being celebrated from September 25 through October 1, 2016, and is focused on diversity.
In celebration of Banned Books Week, Hackney Library will display copies of print books in our collection (just look for the bright yellow “Caution!” tape around the display near the library’s Technology Classroom on the first floor) that have made Banned Books lists in the past, including numbers 5, 6, and 7 on the list below for 2015. All the books in the display are meant to be read, so please feel free to grab a title or more off the display to check out and read for yourself!
The ALA, which tracks challenges to various books in libraries and school curricula each year, recorded 275 challenges to books in 2015, the most recent year for available data. The top ten “banned” or challenged books for 2015 make for strange bedfellows (so to speak); here are the titles on that list, and the reasons cited for their challenges:
- Looking for Alaska by popular Young Adult genre author John Green (Reasons cited: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James (Reasons cited: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, poorly written, etc.)
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings (Reasons cited: inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group)
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (Reasons cited: anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, etc.)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Reasons cited: offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, profanity, atheism)
- The Holy Bible (Reasons cited: religious viewpoint)
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Reasons cited: violence, graphic images)
- Habibi by Craig Thompson (Reasons cited: nudity, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)
- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter (Reasons cited: religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, violence)
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (Reasons cited: homosexuality, condones public displays of affection, etc.)
As you can see from the 2015 top-ten list, challenges to books run the gamut, coming from both the liberal and the conservative ends of the cultural spectrum; ironically, sometimes the same reason is cited by both extremes but in relation to completely different books. It’s not unusual for books we now consider classics to have been challenged or banned. The most frequently-cited reasons for book challenges include the following:
- Sexually explicit content
- Offensive language
- Content unsuited to the targeted age group
- Expression of religious viewpoint
- Drug use
Feel free to come by to check out and read as many “banned books” from our Banned Books display as you’d like, and defend first amendment rights by being willing to Stand Up for Your [And Everyone Else’s] Right to Read!