I Love Banned Book Week!


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.


About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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1 Response to I Love Banned Book Week!

  1. I didn’t realize all those classic books have been challenged or banned. Wow.

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