Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Banned Book Week!


by Douglas Grudzina

Next week, September 26 – October 2, 2009, we educators and bibliophiles will be celebrating the American Library Association’s Twenty-Seventh Annual “Banned Books Week.” In the Association’s words, Banned Books Week (BBW) “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

The American Library Association website
provides a more complete description of the reasons behind the institution of BBW, announcements of BBW events nationwide, as well as ideas for activities you can do in your own school and classroom.

According to the Radcliffe Publishing Course at the Columbia University School of Journalism, of the Top 100 Novels of the 20th century, 43 have been challenged or banned:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

9. 1984 by George Orwell

10. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
12. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

13. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

14. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

15. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
16. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

17. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

18. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

19. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
20. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
21. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
22. Native Son by Richard Wright
23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
24. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
25. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

26. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

27. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

28. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

29. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

30. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

31. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence

32. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony
Burgess
33. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
34. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

35. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

36. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

37. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
38. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

39. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

40. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

41. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

42. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
43. Rabbit, Run by John Updike



The reasons for each book’s challenge are as varied as the challengers, and many are listed on the ALA site. While these reasons may sincerely reflect the challengers’ beliefs and values, they should not reflect the challengers’ power to impose those beliefs and values on other citizens of a free society.


On a personal and professional note, I’m pretty proud to see that I’ve read 21 of these challenged books (maybe I should be embarrassed that I haven’t read more of them…), and I’ve actually taught eight of them (again, maybe I should wish I’d taught more of them, but some of the titles on this list were on the curriculum for other grades and other courses than the ones I taught…).



You’ll also be pleased to know that Prestwick House offers Teaching Units for 24 of these titles, Advanced Placement Teaching Units for 13 of them (with 3 more in development to be available by the end of the year). We also have Response Journals for 19 of them, Activity Packs for 13, and Multiple Critical Perspectives Guides for 13. (And…if we don’t have the teaching materials you need for a hot title you want to teach, just let us know, and we’ll add it to our production schedule).


As the ALA says on its site, “Americans [should] not … take [the] precious democratic freedom [to read and to choose what to read] for granted.” As the above list indicates, there are many people who believe otherwise. So…in honor of Banned Books week, be an American; read a banned or challenged book today.


1 comment:

SafeLibraries said...

Happy National Hogwash Week!

No books have been banned in the USA for about a half a century. See "National Hogwash Week."

Also see "US Libraries Hit Back Over Challenges to Kids Books," by Sara Hussein, Agence France-Presse [AFP], 6 September 2009.

Given "American Library Association Shamed," by Nat Hentoff, Laurel Leader-Call, 2 March 2007, I ask anyone reading this to explain why the ALA views book burnings, bannings, and jailed librarians in Cuba as NOT censorship, and why people legally keeping children from inappropriate material IS censorship.

Why does the ALA not only refuse to assist jailed Cuban librarians, but go further and actually thwart efforts by others to assist them? Why should members of the public consider the ALA to be authoritative on the definition of what is censorship in local public libraries?

Indeed, why should local libraries care one whit about an organization actively blocking efforts to assist jailed and beaten Cuban librarians and associated censorship and book burnings?