Tag: banned books

The Final Day of Banned Books

It’s the last day of Banned Books Week, and our descriptions of frequently challenged books.  Check out some articles from the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post about Banned Books of the year.

The AAS Library celebrates the freedom and the right to read, and believes that patrons are able to choose their own books and their own reading material. Please enjoy this final day of challenge highlights, and remember that many more happen every day.  Challenges are common, often unpublicized, often not fought against. Sometimes the books slip quietly from the shelves, and sometimes the books get publicity they would never have seen.

The next time you look into a library, and see the books, you may wonder how they are chosen, and what books or materials are not available.  It’s always hard to see what’s missing, but you can learn a lot from that.

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Books have the power to divide and polarize, and junior fiction is no exception.  One particularly polarizing series is the Junie B. Jones series.  While some parents and kids herald it as a favorite series, others consider it “the mental equivalent of toxic waste”.  Why?

Junie B. Jones is a very typical girl, who calls people names, acts out, and makes mistake after mistake. Her language is the most cited in the negative reviews of the books.  Junie B. makes grammatical errors constantly: She ‘runned’ to the playground, she had the ‘funnest’ time, and she knows about the vegetable ‘Sue Keeny’.

Books with misbehaving and imperfect characters are a frequent target of challenges.  The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, and Harry Potter have all been challenged for similar reasons; these books all have “undesirable role models.” Should books be pulled from the shelves because the lead characters are imperfect?

See more here about Junie B. and her author.

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Can “disturbing subject matter” be glamorized in books and film?  This is the discussion taking place around 13 Reasons Why, a recently released television show adapted from a book by Jay Asher.  The plot revolves around a girl who commits suicide, and includes drugs and alcohol, rape, profanity, and intense scenes.

This year, at least one school in the US attempted to restrict circulation and pull the books from the district’s libraries. The order was rescinded when the school administration realized that the book was not as graphic as the television series. Other schools, including a district in Canada, have attempted to prevent students from talking about the book or the series at school.  New Zealand placed a restriction on the show, preventing those under 18 from watching without an adult. The critics claim that suicide is glorified and that young people will be at risk.

In this age of information, with media available at our fingertips, do these censorships have any impact on the intended audience?  Does restricting access to the materials and the discussion that they could create benefit the audience?

Teen Vogue wrote a great piece about this here.

 

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Book challenges are often more frequent when books are a part of curriculum, or when the book is being adapted into a movie or television series.  In the case of The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, the challenges are ramping up for the book, saying that the book is “full of foul language, and explicit and disturbing material.”

The challenger in this Wisconsin school wanted to replace the title in the curriculum with an unnamed book that would “inspire greatness.”  The same district had a challenge to another book about poverty, a kindergarten curriculum text published by the United Nations, because the parent claimed it had “negative, dark, depressing imagery.” The review committee voted to keep the book, though some books don’t have the same fortune.  The Glass Castle shifted in another school district from the whole book to just approved excerpts, and the book continues to be challenged in different libraries and schools.

Do books have a responsibility to be joyous or provide us a happy ending?  Should we expose young people to those disturbing and depressing themes at various stages of their lives?  

See the news about the Wisconsin challenge here.

Banned Books Week: Day 4

There are some authors that are banned almost without trying. Here is a feature about a new and more uncommon author, an old controversial favorite, and a contemporary author who writes about the big issues.

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The Little Bill Series, a series of readers written for Bill Cosby’s kid’s TV series, features a young boy learning about the world.  The challenges against this book series made it the 9th most challenged/banned book in the United States in 2016.

These challenges are atypical for Banned Books week because the content is not controversial in any way.  In fact, the series was lauded for many years and used by educators and librarians alike.  Bill Cosby was accused of drugging and assaulting a woman, with a public trial that swept through the public media.

This unreliable author example follows other examples of books that were declared misrepresented or inaccurate, with readers unsure how to respond. Three Cups of Tea faced a similar problem after it was determined that many of the facts were misrepresented.  Should authors be pulled from the shelves when their personal lives show a different side of them than their art?

See more information here about this unusual challenge.

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Banned Books Week is a primarily American week, which brings up something that many Americans are squeamish about: books about sex.  One author that has been banned over and over again because of the coming of age and sexual themes? Judy Blume.

Judy Blume has been one of the most frequently challenged authors in the 21st century.  She is known for her honest and direct talk about masturbation, periods, sex, and birth control, even though she has had to update the vocabulary with updated printings (belts and pins became sticky pads and maybe will become tampons).  Readers have thanked her for telling them things they never knew from their parents… just as many more threatened her with physical harm.

Sexual content is available on any device at any time in this world, but Judy Blume offers in her books a stream of consciousness that may mirror that of the reader.  Is there value in experiencing sexuality and fears through fiction such as this?

See an article about the works of Judy Blume here.

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There are some authors that have several, if not all, of their books challenged time and again.  John Green, Judy Blume, R.L. Stine, and Toni Morrison have all had the majority of their works challenged, just to name a few.

Chris Crutcher is among the authors challenged across the board.  His works generally involve young athletes struggling with teen issues and family or friend problems, and typically end with some success at the big final game or match of the season.  Often, his books cover so many issues that they have become a part of required reading or curriculum, which often leads to more challenges.  

His books, like many books geared toward young adults, have been challenged for sexual content, language, drugs, and more, and have been said to “offend adult sensibilities.” In fact, some theorize that YA books are popular because they offend adult sensibilities.  Should books be written as offensive in order to encourage reading?

See the article: Chris Crutcher: Hero or Villain here.

Banned Books Week, Day 3

Banned Books week is a time to celebrate the Freedom to Read that we express in our school community and library.  Books are challenged for a variety of reasons, often within different school districts in the U.S. and Canada. Patrons, parents, or school administration may challenge a book and attempt to pull it off the shelves of the library or from the curriculum of the school, often because they want to protect the students, or prevent other patrons from reading.

Each day during this week, we will feature a title from each of our three divisions to learn more about the challenges in other schools, districts, and with other readers to highlight the challenge stories that readers across the globe face.  The AAS Library believes in the freedom to read, and the access to information for our all of our patrons.

Most teachers and parents will recognize the Goosebumps Series, small spooky stories written by R.L. Stine. This series is in the top 100 most banned books of the decade, along with several of his other titles for older readers. These books have haunted young readers since 1992, with titles like Night of the Living Dummy, A Night in Terror Tower, and Bad Hare Day.

Some people say that “the books are too scary for kids,” “there are disturbing scenes, violence, and dialogue,” and “children will be unable to handle the frightening content.”  While the series seems almost out of date in the year 2017, the “too scary” challenge is quite common.  

“Unsuited for Age Group” is a common challenge placed against books.  Adults often underestimate children and what they can manage, as well as their ability to choose what they consider too scary.  Should books be pulled from the shelves because of the reactions of some of the readers?

See another perspective here about R.L. Stine and his works.

Religion is a contentious issue in the world of literature, with many of the challenges against certain books led by religious organizations.  The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman has been challenged, restricted, and banned because of the book’s critique against organized religion.

His book is no exception in the world of fantasy.  The Harry Potter series is among the most challenged of all time, because of its “encouragement” of witchcraft and wizardry.  However, with Dark Materials, the series is considered “anti-religious” and “anti-Christian,” especially with interview notes from the author confirming that he is an atheist.  One school even put a note on the inside cover of the books telling readers that the church in the story is not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church.

While these challenges have fallen from this title because of its age and popularity, there still are other titles that critique and threaten organized religions beyond Christianity.  Should books be pulled from the shelves because they offer a view that might be offensive?

See the top 10 lists here.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been challenged time and again since its release in 1884.  Schools have put it on required reading lists and then removed it from those lists, primarily because of racial slurs.  The book has been challenged as racist, oppressive, insensitive, and degrading.

Some schools have retained this title, both on the shelves and in the curriculum, while others have changed their curricula to put the novel in context.  Still other schools required teachers to attend seminars on how to deal with race in the classroom before they taught the book.  There is debate about whether or not the book contributes to a racist environment, or if the historical context is worth more than the language that it is written with.  Other more current books that tackle racial themes have been released and found glowing receptions from readers, but this book stays on reading lists throughout the US.

Should books like these, with their historical use of language, be used in school curricula as classes?  Should the context of the racial history be found in a different way, through modern texts?
See a quick summary of Huck Finn here.

Banned Books Week, Day 1

Banned Books week is a time to celebrate the Freedom to Read that we express in our school community and library.  Books are challenged for a variety of reasons, often within different school districts in the U.S. and Canada. Patrons, parents, or school administration may challenge a book and attempt to pull it off the shelves of the library or from the curriculum of the school, often because they want to protect the students, or prevent other patrons from reading.

Each day during this week, we will feature a title from each of our three divisions to learn more about the challenges in other schools, districts, and with other readers to highlight the challenge stories that readers across the globe face.  The AAS Library believes in the freedom to read, and the access to information for our all of our patrons.

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The graphic novels of Raina Telgemeier are incredibly popular in the AAS library.  Her books deal with the middle school experience, from braces to sisters to ghosts in the night.  One of her graphic novels, Drama, features a young middle schooler working backstage as part of stage crew, where she develops a crush on a boy… who likes another boy.

Like many books that deal with LGBT issues, this book was banned in one Texas school district for being “sexually explicit”.  There is the added issue of the book being a graphic novel, which often leads to more challenges than when the books are in print.  The book shows an onstage kiss and a serious discussion about identity, which some have found objectionable.

The author and her publisher, Scholastic, fight against this censorship for this age group.  They say that they have worked to ensure that the content was both age appropriate and real, noting that “finding your identity, whether gay or straight, is a huge part of middle school.”  Should books about sexual identity be pulled from the shelves because of some vocal opponents?

 

See more details here about this book and its challenges.

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This One Summer, a middle grades/young adult comic book, was the first graphic novel honored with a Caldecott Honor Award as well as a Printz Honor.  The Caldecott is officially for artistic excellence of picture books for students up to age 14, but generally awards arts for ages 8 and younger.  The Printz, however, is for excellence in Young Adult literature.  For one book to receive both awards is unexpected, and it resulted in several challenges from readers who did not anticipate this level of material.

Graphic novels are frequently under attack for their content, which is easily referenced as “objectionable” in ways that are less common in print.  This particular book features a coming of age story of two young girls, in the form of a summer memoir.  There are young adult themes and content in the transition and the formulation of the identity, which led to the book being the most challenged of 2016.

This book was removed from more than one school library, and access restricted because of the themes.  Should books be pulled and restricted because the themes deal with content that may be faced in the future?

 

See a case study here about this book and its challenges.

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Nabokov’s Lolita had quite a reaction of challenges since it was published in 1955. It was banned as obscene in England, France (where it was originally published), Argentina, New Zealand, and to other various degrees elsewhere.  It was only overturned in France in the 1950s when the publisher (known for their pornographic pulp novels) sued the French government.

The novel obviously has intense themes, focusing on pedophilia and incest, and has become a part of the cultural vernacular.  However, the challenges are not yet over. The book still ranks in the most commonly challenged and banned classic books, now at number 11.  Still, the book was recognized early as a literary classic, an important psychological book.  It also brings into light that some of the most interesting and provocative books, the most popular and controversial, are often the ones challenged and banned.  

We are often drawn to literature that is controversial and unusual, and which is one reason why books and ideas can be so terrifying.  Should a book with an intense theme be pulled from the shelves of an entire country?

See some old banning papers for Lolita here.