Sunday, September 26, 2010


"THINK for yourself and let others do the same."

That is the slogan of the American Library Association (ALA) for the annual event celebrating the freedom to read. September 25-October 2, 2010 celebrates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s significance and value with this Banned Books Week (BBW). This annual event is held during the last week of September to emphasize:

“the benefits of free and open access to information, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular
...while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”

Featured books have been subjected to attempted bannings. Librarians, teachers, booksellers and community members efforts have prevented many more books from being censored or restricted, so they remain in library collections. ALA office records show hundreds of ban attempts each year.

ALA reports “Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

The ALA website provides short concise explanations of the difference between a book challenge and a banning, why books are challenged and who does so. Information is provided as to why specific books are banned. Especially interesting are ALA pages listing: Frequently Challenged Books by year, Authors(by year,) Authors of Color, Statistics, by decade, a list of banned and challenged classics.

You can examine the top ten banned or challenged books of the 21st century to determine if your favorite book is listed.

Some of the most frequently challenged authors books may not appear on the list. The example ALA provides is if each of Judy Blume’s books were challenged, but only once, she would make the Most Challenged Author list, but her books would not make the top 10 list. Five of her books are on the 1990 to 1999 Most Frequently Challenged Books list.

The 20th Century’s top 100 novels banned or challenged are listed including some of author John Steinbeck’s novels (see my preceding two blog posts.) I learned I had read many of the 100 books. Here are the first 9 and a special favorite of mine. I’m surprised Madame Bovary isn’t still on the list which I read at age 10 or under.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell

You may read books challenged there but consider:

”The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom does not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges. Research suggests that for each challenge reported there are as many as four or five that go unreported.”

A small example from the ALA list of authors I've not already mentioned here whose writings have been banned or challenged between 2001 to 2009 include:

J. K. Rowling
Stephen King’
Maya Angelou
Maurice Sendak
Mark Twain

I recall reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, seeing a special emotionally moving interview Bill Moyer’s conducted with her on PBS, and seeing her in person in a strikingly enlightening one-woman presentation about her life with an added social commentary. Her book described, and a segment in the TV interview was recorded in, a community where she lived as a young girl in a similar area that I had shockingly encountered in my youth, so I knew first hand how true her words to be. The idea that anyone could even remotely consider challenging, or wanting her book banned I believe is misguided.

Her book, ranked 31, is one example demonstrating the book information ALA provides:

“31 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Reason for challenges: racism, homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, unsuited to age group”

There is a bibliography listing books, “...challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in 2009 and 2010 as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom from May 2009-May2010.” Author(s), book title, publisher are listed, followed by a paragraph summary explaining who made the complaint and why, coupled with a brief description of the offending story.

Following are a few of the listed books, their author(s) and one abbreviated example of content:

And Tango Makes Three
By Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
“The illustrated book is based on a true story of two
male penguins that adopted an abandoned egg
at New York City’s Central Park in the late 1990s.”

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America
By Barbara Ehrenreich

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary
By Merriam-Webster Editorial Staff

The Bean Trees
By Barbara Kingsolver

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
By Anne Frank

I recommend you visit the American Library Association's website by clicking on their name here for a direct link. Reiterating the BBW slogan:



  1. I think the only one of those I haven't read is Lord of the Flies. I agree with you, of course.

  2. I gave the list to my children when they were in middle school and told them what it was and why I thought they should read every single book on the list before they graduated from high school. Eric was in 'super jock' phase and not reading much at that point and laughed and said he'd have to buy them which was immediately quashed by my telling him they were already on our bookshelves and go get one NOW. Kate just shrugged and said she had already read half of them.

    Neither felt that any of them were objectionable at all.

    The 'inveterate reader' gene is alive and well with my grands.

    I hate book burners.

  3. Gosh, I haven't read The Color Purple or Beloved. Will I find something that appeals to prurient interests in them? I missed the salacious parts of the other books on this list.

  4. I will never understand the people who do this "judging"...How dare they??? It is despicable and has nothing to do with literary value, at all! Maya Angelou's Book???? PLEASE! CATCHER IN THE RYE???? Help Us And Save Us.
    The people who do this should be banned!

  5. Where does anyone get off making these judgment calls? One of my husband's favorite books was Catcher in the Rye. I don't know how many times he read it. I loved The Color Purple. I'm in agreement with you JoAnn...