When we think of censorship, we often think of such dystopian societies as those depicted in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and other futuristic societies. But unfortunately, censorship attempts are alive and well in the year 2014, even in our own state of North Carolina.
In September 2014, the Greensboro News & Record reported that the Watauga County School Board earlier in the year considered but then ultimately rejected a ban of Chilean author Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, prompted by inclusion in the book of graphic scenes of rape and executions in the book. The book is one of those included in honors English and AP curricula. Other recent challenges in the state to books include the efforts of Randolph County to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Brunswick County’s attempt to ban Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Both of these attempts were also overturned.
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 21 through September 27. 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’s hit list!).
This year’s Banned Books Week focuses on attempts to ban comics and graphic 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 2013-14 banned/challenged book lists, including Ellison’s Invisible Man.
The Banned Books display is located on the back counter of the library’s circulation desk (you’ll spot it easily by the yellow “caution” tape surrounding the display). (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 September, after which they’ll return to their regular homes on our shelves.
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