Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Challenged Books: or, what to read now

gayinpublic's recent post commenting on a Wisconsin "Christian Civil Liberties" groups desire and lawsuit to win the right to burn a library book reminded me about this list from the ALA. Every year, the American Library Association compiles a list of books that are challenged in libraries; meaning, books that someone has requested be removed from the library collection. (That's a nice way of saying 'books that someone wanted banned.') The ALA top ten most frequently challenged books of 2008 are:

1. "And Tango Makes Three," by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Anti-Family, Homosexuality, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2. "His Dark Materials Trilogy" (Series), Philip Pullman
Reasons: Political Viewpoint, Religious Viewpoint, Violence
3. "TTYL"; "TTFN"; "L8R, G8R" (Series), Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group
4. "Scary Stories" (Series), Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, Religious Viewpoint, Violence
5. "Bless Me, Ultima," by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Violence
6. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Drugs, Homosexuality, Nudity, Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Suicide, Unsuited to Age Group
7. "Gossip Girl" (Series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group
8. "Uncle Bobby's Wedding," by Sarah S. Brannen
Reasons: Homosexuality, Unsuited to Age Group
9. "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group
10. "Flashcards of My Life," by Charise Mericle Harper
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

I expect that Baby Be-bop will make an appearance next year, what with all the press it's getting in Wisconsin. (Do these book burners know it's part of a series they might want to burn? I doubt it. These don't sound like folk who bother with a lot of "research.")

So there you have it- the books folks most want banned. Don't wait for Banned Books Week to get started on them. It sounds like a summer reading list to me!*

*All except His Dark Materials, which I've pointed out before- but it bears repeating- was just plain disappointingly awful.


SafeLibraries said...

If you can't wait for "Banned Books Week," then read about "National Hogwash Week."

Sharon GR said...

Hogwash indeed.

These books have not been banned, nor has anyone suggested they be. Most libraries- the one for which I work is included- have a procedure for challenging books. As this list notes, one of the most common reasons for challenging a book is age appropriateness. The ALA has not said these books were banned. Even my snarky commentary does not say they were.

Banned Books Week is very clear about its objectives. "... annual event celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one's opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who which to read them." Read about it here. They even explain the difference between a challenge and a ban, patiently, using small enough words that even most wingnuts who bother to read it will understand.

Personally, I have strong opinions about several of the books on this list. Specifically, I think some Young Adult book series are very adult and much of a YA audience shouldn't be reading them. That, however, is something I will enforce on a PARENTAL level ONLY, never by insisting they be removed from a library shelf.

Geoff said...

Ah, I will agree that "His Dark Materials" gets into adult territory pretty quickly. My friend (who's my age, 25) said they came out just at the right ages as we were growing up, but I read them all at once in college and was quite surprised.

SafeLibraries said...


The One True Tami said...

I still don't know why anyone bothered to publish books 2 and 3 of "His Dark Materials". They were disjointed, abrupt, poorly narrated, and much too adult for young readers. I cannot imagine a "young adult" enjoying that third thing, was it called "The Subtle Knife"?

I wouldn't ever request that a book be removed from a library, but you can bet your bippy that if anyone asked me, I'd tell them not to bother reading that particular series.

Sorry, I know that wasn't the point, but I hated that series a lot.

Sharon GR said...

I completely agree, Tami.

Geoff said...

Not to rock the boat, but I love "His Dark Materials"! They don't stay appropriate for very young children very long, but I also think we as a culture tend to shelter the younger set a bit too much and so are inclined to think they're worse than they really are.

Sharon GR said...

(SPOILER ALERT) I wasn't upset about the content level in HDM series. In fact, my Oldest (who was about 10 at the time) read them the same time I did. I was simply disappointed in them. The third book felt so disjointed and unnecessary- elements of plot made no sense, a whole world was built for chapters for no apparent reason, the allmighty was omnicient, the most intelligent being forever and had survived for millenia but was taken in by Mrs. Coulter's beauty (?), gawd disappeared in a whif of wind, the church was-gasp-plotting... it just felt weak. After the promise of a great story from the first book (and the normal middle-book-of-a-trillogy weakness of the second book), I was not merely disappoined, but angry at the time I wasted listening to the book.

For the record, Oldest was almost as disappointed as I was. The content level wasn't a problem for Oldest; just the ridiculousness of the plot resoulution.

I know that others disagreed with my assessment of the series, but I've found many folk who agree too. I guess it's the type of literature which polarizes people. I'm glad you enjoyed them, G., and I'm sorry I couldn't share your assessment of them (especially since I know that you have excellent taste in literature. :) )

The said...

Sharon, good to see you're still blogging. It's Jack, from Jersey Perspective. Remember me? I'm actually in Wisconsin now – and now I blog about Wisconsin.

Any brewery posts coming up? I try to keep up with Wisconsin breweries...

Stop by sometime!

The said...

Oh, sorry I'm at:


Anonymous said...

Ah, I will agree that "His Dark Materials" gets into adult territory pretty quickly....

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