Are you familiar with the list of books that have been banned? I have to admit that I find the list of books involved simply amazing.
The campaign for Banned Book week was started in 1982 by Judith Krug, who was a librarian and a strong supporter of freedom of speech. The current program, which was started in 1983, is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Bookseller Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, the National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom collects information from librarians on attempts to ban books in towns and schools. They compile the information in an effort to tell the public about censorship efforts. In 2012, the office received reports on 464 challenges but they feel that they only receive the information on about 20 percent of the challenges.
The ALA has, as one of its eight Key Action Areas (guiding principles for directing their efforts), a stand on intellectual freedom. Their stand is as follows:
Intellectual freedom is a basic right in a democratic society and a core value of the library profession. The American Library Association actively defends the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
“The ALA condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information.”
Now there are two different categories of books talked about during Banned Books Week. There are books that are challenged and books that are banned. The difference? If a book is actually removed from the shelves, then it is a banned book otherwise, it was just a challenge. Most challenges are not successful. The desire to remove a book is usually based in good intentions. Most challenges come from parents that wish to have materials removed because of “inappropriate” sexual content or “offensive” language.
As part of a multiyear “Celebration of the Book”, the Library of Congress began with an exhibition on “Books That Shaped America”. (You can read more about it here) Of that list of books, the books deemed by the Library of Congress to be books that shaped America, the following books have banned or challenged:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X and Alex Hailey
Beloved Toni Morrison
The Call of the Wild Jack London
Catch-22 Joseph Heller
Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
Howl Allen Ginsberg
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
The Jungle Upton Sinclair
Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
Moby Dick Herman Melville
Native Son Richard Wright
Our Bodies, Our Selves Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male Alfred C. Kinsey
Strange in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein
A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak
The Words of Cesar Chavez Cesar Chavez
Do you see what makes me giddy about this week? Look at that list. Look at the classics in American literature that people have tried to silence.
Did you know this? Are you thinking that these challenges are all in the past?
Thanks for reading.