Pick Up a Banned Book this Week

Banned Books Week

Image by ALA

Imaging walking into your school’s library looking for a book to challenge your ideas, change your perspectives, and perhaps make you consider things you had never even thought of before. Your eyes scan the shelves, searching for the titles of some modern classics, but they are conspicuously absent. Nowhere on the shelves can you find The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or Slaughterhouse-Five. You might not even be able to find popular contemporary series like Harry Potter, Twilight or The Hunger Games.

Chances are you haven’t been in this situation because the U.S. protects your right to free speech. You can say what you want, think what you want, read what you want. But despite our First Amendment right, some schools and libraries (but mostly parents) feel certain books are inappropriate for their students, children, or members and refuse to carry them. Reasons for censorship include offensive language, racism or discussion of racial issues, positive depictions of non-traditional lifestyles (as in Daddy’s Roomate), sexual content, violence, and the occult.

To raise awareness of the issue of censorship and celebrate our freedom to read, Banned Book Week was launched in 1982. Each year during the last week of September, libraries and bookstores across the country participate by mounting displays of banned books and holding events such as read-outs. Since BBW’s inauguration 31 years ago, over 11,300 books have been challenged.


A few banned books from my shelf

We all probably complained in high school about some of the books we had to read for English class – I’m certainly guilty of really disliking Animal Farm at age 15 – but really, how incredibly lucky were we to be able to read some of those books?! I believe banned books are probably the most important to read. If a book’s message makes someone so uncomfortable they have to ban it to keep their children from picking up its ideas, it probably has some interesting and valuable truth to it. The books pictured above were pulled were pulled from my shelf; all of them are banned/challenged, and I feel my life is richer for reading each of them (well, except for Catcher In The Rye… it might need another read).

This year, I am celebrating Banned Books Week by reading Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’ve never read her because I’ve always felt strangely intimidated by her books, so this is the perfect time to challenge myself! Just this year, a Fairfax VA mother lobbied to have Beloved banned from her son’s school. The Washington Post reports that she thought the depictions of bestiality, gang rape, and infanticide were too intense for teenagers to handle. Although I felt super confused and disoriented at the beginning of the book, I’m getting into the groove now. I can’t wait to see what Beloved has in store for me! (The book banner’s son had nightmares after reading this book, so I’m looking forward to some really powerful scenes.)

So go out this week and pick up a banned or challenged book. Read something ‘subversive,’ that ‘presents dangerous ideas,’ or that ‘goes against the Bible.’ It might help you discover new ways of thinking or gain some sort of enlightenment. It might even change you life. So go to your local library and check out a banned book. Celebrate your right to read.


17 thoughts on “Pick Up a Banned Book this Week

  1. Awesome, I didn’t know there was a banned book week! I’m halfway through a book at the moment (which I don’t think was ever banned) but I did just finish reading Brave New World and I’m currently also reading Anne Frank’s Diary which has been banned by a few schools in America so that will have to be my contribution.

  2. I’m celebrating by reading Slaughterhouse-Five and I’m currently loving it. I find Vonnegut super intimidating but I’m really thankful for this week for encouraging me to try something new and say no to the haters at the same time. I hope you enjoy Beloved (and don’t get nightmares!).

    • Yay! That’s one of my all-time favorite books 😀 I feel like I should have been intimidated by Vonnegut, but I don’t think I knew enough about him to start out with TO be intimidated. I first read it long before I started blogging, and SH-5 just seemed like a book the cool indie kids read, so I read it and happened to love it 😛

      I felt SO confused and disoriented at the beginning of Beloved, but I’m loving it now!

  3. I didn’t know anything about this activity until I began to see it on FB this week. I didn’t know there were libraries and schools in which some books are banned, but I think they just get the opposite aim they would like to get: people will feel more intereted in those books!
    Anyway, I’m not participating, but I have some of these books in my list: Slaughterhouse five, Fahrenheit 451, Animal farm, etc. I will read them someday 🙂

    • Banned Books Week is fantastic because it throws all of these controversial books right in your face. It’s a great battle against censorship. Slaughterhouse-Five and Fahrenheit 451 are AMAZING!

  4. I’m celebrating Banned Books Week by enjoying many of the frequently challenged books with my children: Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Junie B. Jones, The Giver, and so many more. It’s amazing to see how many children’s and YA adults are on the lists.

  5. Awesome post! And I love this Banned Books Week, it’s such a good idea. I’ve never heard of it before (I was in England the whole time this time last year so I would have been off the blogs and completely missed it). I had a look at the list and was stunned to find so many of my favourite books on there. I think this should be taken up in other countries around the world!
    I’m probably a little late to the party to begin reading a banned book, plus I don’t know if I have any unread ones on my shelves actually, but I am going to write a blog post on this all the same before the end of the week. 🙂

  6. Pingback: My Favorite Banned Books | Turn the Page Reviews

  7. Thanks for letting me know about this information. Sorry… it’s been too long for me. I somewhat missed out on all the fun I should’ve known about how to celebrate the first amendment. It’s okay. I’ll get back to it by the upcoming last week of September – hopefully, I want to read banned books for 2014-15 while on Senior Year 2 of high school so I can be free from all-day boredom and be with peers. I will succeed this walkthrough by the end of next school year, so that way school should be out… forever.

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