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.
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.
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 The order was rescinded when the school administration realized that the book was not as graphic as the television series.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.
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.