Banned and challenged books get a lot of press during Banned Books Week, but I think it’s important to discuss issues like censorship year round and not just for one week at the end of September.
Since most challenges involve material read in schools or marketed to young adults and librarians who serve teen patrons are often at the center of these issues, I thought an overview of books that were challenged in 2013 would be of interest to Hub readers. Of course, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but I’ve attempted to round up challenges in the United States that involved teen readers.
Most of these books were challenged for being sexually explicit, containing offensive language, or being unsuitable for the age group, and most were challenged because they were included on a suggested reading list for students, part of a class assignment, or available in a school library. These are also, in most cases, books that have received wide acclaim and can teach tolerance and understanding. I was also surprised at how many books are by authors of color. The objections overwhelmingly looked at small sections of text without considering the context or overall message and theme of the book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- was discontinued from use in a middle school in West Virginia
- Montana students fought to keep it on the shelves in their school
- was compared to Fifty Shades of Grey in a challenge by a mother in New York
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
- was challenged, but stayed on the school library shelves in Minnesota
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
- In Georgia, a parent complained about it being included on a long list of books from which students could select a title for an assignment
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky
- was reinistated in classes in Illinois when Judy Blume (whose books are also frequently challenged) supported its use in classrooms
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
While the ALA counted almost 500 challenges in 2012, it also estimates that for 4-5 challenges go unreported for every one that does make the annual list. Preserving open access to ideas and information is a core tenet of librarianship, which is why I think it’s important to continue to discuss the issue throughout the year.
— Molly Wetta, currently reading Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
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