What do Their Eyes were Watching God, As I Lay Dying, A Farewell to Arms, The Bluest Eye, Slaughterhouse Five, Invisible Man, The Color Purple, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Call of the Wild all have in common? They’re all on a list of classic literature? Best novels of the 20th century? Books you struggled to finish in English class? Possibly. But one thing they do have in common is the fact that they have all been challenged or even banned from some libraries and schools.
This week is Banned Books Week, and we’d like to take some time to explain the history of Banned Books Week, give a few examples, and talk about some of our favorite “banned” books.
Why celebrate it? Banned Books Week, first recognized in 1982, is observed during the last week of September. According to the American Library Association website, “Banned Books Week emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”
Have books really been banned? Most “banned” books are actually “challenged” books, which means that someone made a complaint about them. A challenge is a request to remove a book from a library or school; a banned book is a book that is actually removed due to a challenge. Generally, most challenged books are not ultimately banned.
Who challenges books? Lots of people, for lots of reasons, although parents are generally listed as the top challengers. Those challenging books have good intentions–they usually want to protect someone from something that conflicts with their beliefs.
What’s my favorite banned book? There are a lot of good titles on the lists, but one of my favorites is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.