Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week this week, so here's a nifty little overview of the top 10 challenged books in 2010 & a list of seventeen banned books you probably read as a child & the reasons why they were banned. Here are a few excerpts:

Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
Challenged for: Inappropriate themes, explicit sexuality and offensive language.
(I'm sorry, explicit sexuality? Offensive language? Have they *read* this book?)
Position on American Library Association List Of Banned Books 2010: #10

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
Challenged for: Anti-religious/Christian propaganda; main characters drink and imbibe drugs (poppy).
Position on American Library Association List Of Banned Books 2000-2009: #8

The Hunger Games series by Susanne Collins
Challenged for: Being inappropriate for age group; desensitising children to murder; encouraged violence as entertainment; drug use.
Position on American Library Association List Of Banned Books 2010: #5

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Challenged for: Promoting witchcraft; main character has no moral story arc.
("Promoting witchcraft"? I think "Characters engage in the unsafe practice of flying brooms without helmets" would be more appropriate.)
Position on American Library Association List Of Banned Books 2000-2009: #1

I think it's really interesting that so many of the top 100 most challenged books in the last decade are young adult texts. It's like the Wall Street Journal article that caused such a ruckus a few months ago because it claimed that all young adult fiction was dark & damaging to teenage readers. If parents really think that if their children don't read about Bad Things then Bad Things won't happen to them, then they've clearly forgotten what it was like to be a child.

Reading about Bad Things doesn't make Bad Things happen, & nor does it make young people do Bad Things. I mean, I clearly grew up as an entirely disreputable, profane, sexually promiscuous satanic witchy wizard with acute religious uncertainty who is disrespectful to adults, sunbathes with her breasts partially exposed & who can't tell fantasy from reality, so you shouldn't take me as an example. Also I have no moral story arc & death is central to my plot. Hmm... Maybe the book banners have a point.

I can laugh about this because I was always encouraged to read anything I could get my hands on, & was quite heartened to discover that a good chunk of the list of banned literary classics I've read I studied in secondary school. But I know that other people aren't so lucky, & a lot of young readers are being denied certain books because the adults around them feel they're inappropriate, which I think is a great pity. I mean, I think the world could use a few more rebellious, disrespectful witches & wizards who don't wear helmets when playing Quidditch, but maybe that's just me.


  1. I completely missed the sexually explicit parts of the hunger games, i'm going to have to read it again. Completely crazy.

  2. I thought that too! I remember Katniss & Peeta kissing a bunch of times & huddling together in a cave for warmth but that's about it. Even Twilight is more sexually explicit than the Hunger Games! And that's saying something!