When we think of censorship, we often think of dystopian societies such as those depicted in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 and other futuristic novels, or perhaps historically in real geographic locales, such as Germany during the Nazi era. But did you know that attempts to censor books are alive and well in North Carolina in 2015?
On May 5, 2015, the Los Angeles Times‘s Michael Schaub reported that as the result of a complaint by former Buncombe County School Board member Lisa Baldwin, Reynolds High School in Asheville, NC earlier in the year temporarily suspended the reading of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner in an honors English class. But according to Asheville’s Daily Planet, on July 2, the “Buncombe County school board — unanimously — voted to retain the novel on the school system’s approved reading list for all county high schools.” Another recent challenge in the U.S. includes Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s efforts to ban John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Even our 2012(?) FYS Summer Reader, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, was challenged last month by a parent of a student in the Knox County (Knoxville), TN schools.
Even children’s books (maybe I should say especially children’s books) are not exempt from censorship attempts (Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop, or Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, anyone?).
Some of the most frequently-cited reasons for books to be challenged or banned are the following: Sexually explicit content, offensive language, content unsuited to the targeted age group, violence, homosexuality, expression of religious viewpoint, and depiction of drug use.
These recent attempts to censor or ban books are just the latest in a long history of such assaults on the freedom to read what one chooses. To counter such censorship attempts, the American Library Association sponsors “Banned Book Week” each year. This year’s observance takes place this week, from September 27 through October 1. In honor of this event to encourage the reading of books that have been challenged, Hackney Library has put together a display of books we own in our collections that have appeared in the past—and often continue to appear—on the challenged books list somewhere in the United States, including in North Carolina (you may be surprised by some of the titles that are on someone else’s hit list!).
This year’s Banned Books Week focuses on attempts to ban Young Adult novels (some of which are in our display), but many of the “usual suspects” that have headed up previous years’ lists have made it once again onto the 2014-15 banned/challenged book lists, including John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
The Banned Books display is located on the table outside the library’s Technology Classroom (you’ll spot it easily by the yellow “caution” tape surrounding the display). Help us preserve the freedom to read by checking out a banned book from this table today! (To see lists of previously and currently challenged books, see the ALA’s web site.)
We encourage you to support the freedom to read by checking out one of these “banned books” and make up your own mind about its worth, content, and value. These books will remain on display through October 3, after which they’ll return to their regular homes on our shelves.