This week is Banned Books Week, which is something libraries and bookstores celebrate each year. As a book nerd, and believer in free speech, I think it’s interesting why certain books are challenged and banned from schools and libraries. This year’s theme, according to the American Library Association, is YA. Understandable, most challenges come from parents or teachers trying to limit what children read. These are some of our favorite challenged and banned books.
- Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak Who hasn’t read this book? I’ve read it to my daughter over and over and she loves it. Max has quite the imagination, and when he sent to his room for misbehaving, his imagination takes him to another place. This is not the only book of Sendak that has been banned or challenged.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky I love the book, and I love the movie. Sure there’s drug use and sex, and it mentions homosexuality. The ultimate takeaway from this book is acceptance, of self and of others. For teenagers, that’s an important message.
- Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck He also has had other works challenged. This one has been called indecent. I remember first reading it in high school and remember only the relationship between Lenny and George
- Go Ask Alice – I remember Kel lending this to me in high school. There is drug use, sex and rebellion. Trying to keep this out of a library or a classroom might be possible, but kids will read it anyway.
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee Though the story takes place in the 1930s, the book is still challenged today for its “racial themes”. The young of the hero of the story, Atticus Finch, has had an image remake based on Lee’s follow-up, Go Set a Watchmen.
- The Giver – Lois Lowry This one, I really don’t understand. This has been challenged in my home state of Missouri, (and elsewhere) and in this futuristic/dystopian society, a young leader emerges. The Receiver is a free thinker, and begins to challenge the status quo. Is he too rebellious? Is it too much like socialism?
- Nickel and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich This one is definitely too much like socialism. She presents a very convincing arguement, and recently has become involved in Linda Tirado’s book, Hand to Mouth. I didn’t see it on a banned books list anywhere, but with similar ideas to Ehrenreich, it’s only a matter of time.
These were among the top 10 most challenged books this past year, according to the ALA:
- And Tango Makes Three – Justin Richardson My daughter and I have read this and we love it. It has been challenged for its homosexual themes, but I just don’t see it. It has never occurred to my daughter that there is anything but love between these penguins.
- A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard After surviving years held as a prisoner, Jayce Dugard’s memoir is dark. I kind of agree that it might not be appropriate for some readers because of the sexual abuse she endured, and talks openly about in the book.
- The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison Still one of my favorite books ever, I frequently use this with my students. I hope that through Morrison’s work they think about their own identities. This also has some racial themes that some find disturbing. Her latest book, God Help the Child is just as powerful.
As an act of rebellion, read one of these books. Support free speech, support authors. Fight censorship!