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Tag: banned books week

Celebrating Stories of Teen Activists

During Banned Books Week, libraries take the time to celebrate stories that some thought shouldn’t be told, and the right of everyone to read those same stories. It is a celebration of the rights the First Amendment protects and the wonderful insights and narratives that those protections have enabled libraries to share and for people of all ages to learn from. However, the very existence of Banned Books Week demonstrates that this freedom of expression is still contested, and it is often youth who stand up and protect their own access to their rights. Stories like those that follow help give insight into the emotional realities of taking a stand as a young person. They are invaluable resources for youth trying to understand the importance of this time of year in particular, and the value of their voices all year round.

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Banned Books: International Edition

International books offer teen readers unique perspectives into the lives of young people from other countries. In some ways, these experiences are universal, yet in other ways they are particular to their cultural milieu. They are windows that open readers’ eyes to different experiences, different ways of thinking, and different norms, and in doing so, they may challenge our notions about what we deem socially acceptable.

Only a very small number of international books make it into the U.S. market, and even less into our YA market. Then, a select few of those books are granted the dubious honor of appearing on our Banned Books lists.

It is ironic that the very books whose value lies (in part, at least) in their ability to expand the minds of young adult readers by offering them perspectives outside of their cultural bubbles should be banned — often for those very same perspectives and ideas which are at their core.

Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read, to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox, unpopular, or “other.” International books may contain elements of all those things. We celebrate them here by exploring a sampling of international YA books that have been banned or challenged at one point or another, both here in the United States and abroad.

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It’s Not Just About Banned Books: Self-Censorship and Library Collections

It’s Banned Books Week! That time of year when we are all encouraged to discuss the importance of intellectual freedom and the problem with banning books. 2015 is not without its share of book challenges and bans making it into the news. For a few examples check out these articles on Ted Dawe’s Into the River, Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime.Banned Books Week 2015

While news articles like these are a great place to start talking about book banning, there’s another kind of censorship I want to encourage us all to think about – self censorship. A simple search will pull up a number of interesting studies and articles on the subject, especially Debra Lau Whelen’s 2009 survey for School Library Journal and the accompanying article “A Dirty Little Secret: Self-Censorship.”

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Tweets of the Week: September 26th

This is Banned Books Week and I have some tweets on the topic below, but also check out the entire #bannedbooksweek hashtag for more tweets.


Banned Books Week:

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Banned Books Week: Why Do People Try to Ban Books Again?

Part of a previous year's Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fanrenhiet 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter
Part of a previous year’s Banned Book Week display . . . made with an old copy of Fahrenheit 451. For irony. Photo by Anna Tschetter

I love Banned Books Week. I find that every year it comes around, there is always a new population of people who have no idea what it is. They look at our displays in our libraries and bookstores and wonder what it is all about. I’ve even had some teens look at my display one year  and then ask if they could actually check them out.

I think that is the best part of Banned Book Week: it gives you a way to have a conversation with patrons and readers about censorship, the freedom to read, and the nature of ideas.

Every year the American Library Association releases their list of the most frequently banned or challenged books in the United States. For 2013 to 2014 there are a lot of great YA novels on the list. Looking for Alaska (2006 Printz winner), I Hunt Killers, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2008 Best Books for Young Adults), and Eleanor & Park (2014 Printz honor book) all grace the list.

It’s always fascinating to see the reasons why a book has been challenged or removed from a school or library. Personally, some of the reasons the books are challenged are the same reasons I think those books are great. Take the challenge in 2013 for Alexie’s Part-Time Indian: it was challenged because it presented the “crude, obscene, and unfiltered viewpoint of a ninth-grader growing up on the reservation.” That’s what makes the book so funny, accessible, and important to other teenagers! 

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Banned Books Week: Let’s Celebrate Comics & Graphic Novels!

I Read Banned Comics - CBLDFI guess it’s no secret by now that I love comics (probably more than a sane person does or should), so I was really excited and happy and thrilled to learn that for this year’s Banned Books Week celebration, the American Library Association is choosing to focus on comics, graphic novels and manga and the attempts made to censor them at every level. 

From Batman to teenage angst to superheroes who really aren’t that super, books that have inspired and encouraged readers to keep the lights on long after the dark has settled in have been challenged and often times removed from shelves, denying future readers the eye-opening wonder of reading these thought provoking and sometimes just plain fun stories. 

In this post, I thought I’d give a brief look at the attempts to censor comics from practically the moment they were introduced as well as showcase comics’ greatest superhero – the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) as well as give you all a taste of some of my favorite banned & challenged comics & graphic novels.  Here we go, dear readers, into the not so distant past – join me, won’t you?

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Why Do We Ban Books, Anyway?

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

The end of Banned Books Week is almost upon us. Banned Books Week celebrates readers everywhere and encourages us to pick up a book whose content has, at some point, been questioned. Chances are, you love a book that has ended up on a banned books list, although you might not realize it yet. Everything from the Harry Potter series to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, has been challenged in a public or school setting.

Common reasons for materials being challenged include “violence,” “racism,” “offensive language,” “sexually explicit” content, and of course, being “unsuited for age group.” With reasons like these, you can imagine how wide the range of challenged materials is. It also might not come as a surprise that E L James’ buzzworthy 50 Shades of Grey trilogy made the top ten list of 2012’s most challenged titles.


Teenage Rebel With A Cause: Why I Love Banned Books Week

book burning Flickr Jason Verwey
image from Flickr user Jason Verwey

The teenage rebel has become a treasured image in American culture.  In fact, phrases like “pushing boundaries” and “classic teenage rebellion” frequently worm their way into conversations about adolescents.  Now, I generally don’t put any stock in the accuracy of stereotypes, especially about stereotypes about teenagers.  However, every nostalgic conversation among my colleagues or friends includes confessions from each individual’s brief past as a teenage rebel.  Whether it’s skipping school, sneaking out to a party, or simply dressing as bizarrely as possible, practically everyone has a memory of teenage rule-breaking–or at least rule-bending.  Even I clearly recall my version of  teenage rebellion–perhaps because the experience helped shape my current career.

Like many strange and wonderful stories, this one begins in eighth grade English class.  The curriculum included To Kill A Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451–two novels that frequently feature in school assignments and lists of American classics.  Both titles also regularly appear on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list compiled by the American Library Association.  I can’t recall if we discussed book banning and challenges during our study of To Kill A Mockingbird, but the subject obviously came up during of our reading of Fahrenheit 451.  Being a passionate reader, the situation described in Fahrenheit 451–a future where books have become illegal and book burning is the specialty of firemen–was my worst nightmare.  Books were my escape, my dearest companions and my guides.  The thought of outlawing books was unthinkably horrific–especially when I learned that book banning was still a reality here in the U.S.

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