Banned Books Week 2013

BBW 2013 2

Hello lovelies! It’s that time of year again – Banned Books Week. From September 22-28 the American Library Association spearheads the celebration over at Banned Books Week. You’ll find a calendar of events, resources, lists, stats and more. While many of the books listed on the site have indeed been successfully challenged and banned in many schools, libraries, cities, states, provinces, countries, etc. many have not, and remain on the shelves for anyone and everyone to enjoy. It is this fact that we celebrate while raising awareness of censorship.

2012’s Top Ten Challenged Books

1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

7. Looking for Alaska by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

8. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

10. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

(from Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century)

I’ve only read numbers 1 and 5 this time around. I really do need to get around to reading number 7!

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Banned Books Week 2012

It’s that time of year again, the week where the American Library Association hosts Banned Books Week in order to bring awareness to challenges to books and attempted, or successful, bannings in schools, libraries or communities. This year is the 30th anniversary of the ALA defending our right to read and Banned Books Week. While I don’t have as much prepared this year as in the past few years, I will have a few posts focusing on the subject, starting with today’s:

2011’s Top Ten Challenged Books
1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence

4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit

8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Reasons: nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit

9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: offensive language; racism

(from Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century)

I’ve read numbers 3, 7, 9 and 10. How many of these top ten books have you read?

Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler

ISBN-13: 9-780316-051583
Published: June 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!

“Don’t worry, Anna. I’ll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it.”
“Okay.”
“Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?”
“Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?”

According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie – she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Twenty Boy Summer reached into my chest, wrapped its words around my heart and did not let go. From the first page I was pulled into Anna’s story and I loved it.

Anna is going with her best friend Frankie and Frankie’s family to Zanzibar Bay for 20 days as a summer vacation. The trip comes one year after their third best friend, Frankie’s older brother Matt, died. Anna and Matt were together in secret for only one month before the tragic accident, and even though it’s been a year, Anna doesn’t know if she’s ready for Frankie’s idea of a whirl-wind 20 boys for 20 days romance plan. But Zanzibar Bay proves to deliver more than Anna, and Frankie, ever expected and the vacation is filled with ups and downs.

Anna. Oh Anna. She’s so strong and loyal it’s ridiculous. She is such a good friend to Frankie, and comes across as one of those girls you would love to be friends with. While Anna only agreed to Frankie’s 20 boys in 20 days plan to get her to stop harping on it, she finds herself falling for Sam, the cute boy she meets the second day on the beach in Zanzibar Bay. But Anna’s first, and still, love is Matt. Anna is torn between staying true to her memory of Matt, or calmly letting go of that part of him and moving on with her life – moving on to Sam. Seriously, this book just hits all the right heartstrings to wrench the emotion out of you. Anna’s confusion, worry and sadness is palpable. And Sam is such a nice guy! I was so glad to see that there was no hidden assholery in Sam. He genuinely cares for Anna and is a good person. I loved them together.

Even though we don’t get to see Frankie’s thoughts – the book is from Anna’s point of view – I connected with her right away. Sarah Ockler had Frankie and her family’s emotions over the loss of a brother and son feel very real. According to Anna, Frankie has changed since her brother’s death and seems to hold in her grief – as do the parents. But as much as this story is about Anna coming to terms with Matt’s death, it’s just as much about Frankie finally confronting a lot of her feelings about it as well. I would have loved to read more about Frankie and her family, because Frankie is hurt and struggling and it is only through Anna’s interactions with her that we get to see any grief, emotion or dealing, and then it’s all filtered through Anna’s perception of events.

Despite the heartbreaking subject matter Twenty Boy Summer is such a good story, about overcoming grief to begin to really live again. It shows that remembering the person and living your life to the fullest is better healing than dwelling on the past and what life was like “before.” This book is a story about friendship, love, healing, and life. Twenty Boy Summer is calm and mostly quiet. There are moments of raw emotion and gritty reality but it’s life. Everything isn’t always perfect and happy, but it’s not always dark and sad either. It’s a wonderful combination of the two, and I think this book pulls it off perfectly.

I read Twenty Boy Summer for Banned Books Week, and I can’t even begin to imagine this book being challenged or banned. Besides the two brief, detail-free sex scenes (and maybe a few curse words), there is nothing in this book that would do anything other than entertain, help or comfort someone. I wish I had had this book to read after my brother passed away because Frankie’s feelings are so close to my own at that time. It’s a beautiful story and I can’t imagine depriving someone of the chance to discover it.

BBW: Guest Post from Safkhet Publishing

I always like to offer secondary opinions during Banned Books Week, so when Kim answered my twitter call for guest posts I immediately agreed!

Please welcome Kim, founder and publisher at Safkhet Publishing, to Escape Through the Pages.

Banned Books Week – what an intriguing thought. Didn’t know it even existed until recently and was then thinking: do we really need that? Are there so many books that are banned or challenged and shouldn’t be?
I read through the lists both on the BBW US website and the one for the UK and am shocked to report I read quite a few of them. Some in school, some at home, some just so. Whoops! How did that happen? Does it have something to do with my growing up in Germany? Right, quick check on the net reveals there is no such Banned Books Week in Germany; there is such a thing as “Meinungsfreiheit” which translates to freedom of opinion.

Am I leaning too far out the window when I say there should be freedom of opinion in any democracy? But then again, neither the US nor the UK are a democracy, are they? Quick check in the history-education department of my brain… no! They aren’t. What does that mean though? That “they” do not need freedom of opinion? (Maybe I should not even be thinking this!)

Well, in any case, it is a sad fact that books get banned, get burned, got banned (in Germany too, yes, I know), got burnt. Which brings me to another image: high school students burning their books right after high school. They ban the very books they learnt from right after graduating. Is that acceptable?
I am a book publisher and books have become some sort of commodity to me and yet, there are some that I would not give away or want to live without:

The first one is my great grandmother’s Bible. It is the oldest book I own and a beautifully leather-bound story book that is almost falling apart.

The second one is my copy of “Nationalsozialismus”. No, I am not a Nazi. I inherited this book from someone who also was not a Nazi and yet, I treasure it for its historic value. It, too, is beautifully leather-bound, well type-set and amazingly well written for what it is: a marketing manual, in some way. And a witness of an era, whatever one may think of that era.

Several others are: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Fahrenheit 451; Tom Sawyer; The Awakening; We; The Colour Purple; Dr Zhivago; Death of a Salesman;… I could keep going for a long time and I had no idea that all of these are banned or challenged! Why?! I actually read most of those in school – we were never told they are banned or challenged in the US or UK!? We discussed the literary value of them! The content did raise interesting issues; it made us more aware.

So, I turned to my husband who is from the US… south of the Bible Belt even. He told me he was not allowed to read the Satanic Bible or The Scarlet Letter. The Scarlet Letter allegedly being about adultery and prostitution; that is at least what the moral majority said. Unclean thoughts and all that. He read it anyway at the age of 16 and did not understand the issue; he got the book from the university library (the restricted section: why am I reminded of Harry Potter suddenly?). Husband thought that everybody should be allowed to read whatever they want; teaching should provide for the understanding and necessary background knowledge so that someone reading about Satan does not turn into Satan himself. People who grow up in such a restricted society are far more likely to grow into little monsters anyway. Or big monsters even?

Oh my, maybe I really should not have written this article, but it so entirely says what I truly feel: if someone wants to write something (author) and at least one other person wants to actually read and distribute it (publisher), after having taken into account every aspect of libel, slander or defamation, why should that get banned after being published? In my opinion, it should not. Not if it’s true (in the case of biographies)! Or fictitious (in the case of fiction, clearly marked as such)!

Am I a bad person because I read all those books that are banned or challenged in other countries, which, by the way, I thought of as civilized, educated, free and open societies?

And when is that all going to hit the Internet and how? Are “they” going to set up committees who comb the Internet for questionable content? Or is that already happening as well and I just did not get the memo in time? Again, I know that it IS happening in some countries; but the US or UK? Really? A scary thought just crossed my mind: what when we all have those brain implants reporting every thought we have directly to that very agency, and we all get looked up for thinking the wrong stuff at the wrong moment? What then? Well, at least the world would be a cleaner place because those filthy, dirty books would no longer hit the schools and trouble the poor children.

Thank you, Kim! Kim works at Safkhet Publishing, an independent publishing house based in Cambridge, England.

Twitter | Safkhet Publishing

BBW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

REASONS FOR CHALLENGES/BANNING

The Hunger Games has been on the most frequently challenged list in 2010, in the top 10 at #5. Suzanne Collins has been in the most frequently challenged authors list for 2010. Reasons for challenges? Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence.

OVERVIEW/REVIEW…beware of possible spoilers

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
ISBN-13: 9-780439-023481; October 2008; 374 pages (HC); Scholastic Press
Read my review here

The Hunger Games is one of my favourite dystopian books. The storytelling drags you in, the characterization connects you to the characters and makes you care, and the plot is such a fast-paced, hold-your-breath wild ride it’s crazy. I’ll happily recommend this book to anyone.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that it’s on this past year’s most frequently challenged list. Now, don’t get me wrong. I obviously would not ever want this book banned (or even challenged!), but it doesn’t surprise me that it is. The Hunger Games is just one of those books that you know some parents/schools/churches/etc. are going to have a problem with and want gone from schools/libraries and homes. Let’s look at the reasons for the challenges…

Sexually explicit: I’m not joking, I laughed at this one. There is no sex in the book, at all. Never do any of the characters do more than some kissing. I do not consider kissing, to be sexually explicit. Obviously kissing must offend some people’s sensibilities.

Unsuited to age group: I hate this reason for challenging a book with the intent to ban it. It’s the reason given when the person doing the challenging can’t think of anything concrete that would mean this book should be removed from public. The Hunger Games is a young adult book. Young. ADULT. This designation alone implies that the people reading this book should be mature enough to handle some less than fluffy-kitty subject matter. It’s not a book for your eight year old (unless, of course, your eight year old is mature enough to handle it. Some are), but your 13+ year old. Bookstores have age-classified sections for a reason. Librarians would know which ages the book is suitable for. This reason is a cop-out.

Violence: this is the only reason at all I will concede is a valid reason for people to challenge this book (again, not that they should. Just that I understand this reason). No bones about it, The Hunger Games is violent. Children are in an arena killing other children. It’s not a fun situation, and it’s why the book is classed as young adult, not middle grade or children. The world Suzanne Collins has created is not a happy one, and violence is rampant. But just because there is violence present is not a call to dictate what other people should read. And when you challenge with the intent to ban, that is what you are doing. Too violent for your child? Fine. Don’t let your child read it. But do not go to your school board or library and try to remove it from shelves so that others cannot read it.

BBW: Statistics of Challenged Books

One of the best resources I can think of for information about banned and challenged books is the American Library Association’s website. As I was browsing around the site this year, I came across a bunch of statistics that I thought would be fun to share with you all.

First, the top 10 challenged books for 2010:
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: insensitivity, offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, and sexually explicit
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and violence
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend
Reasons: drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
7. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
Reasons: sexism, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Reasons: drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
Reasons: homosexuality and sexually explicit
10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence

On their page of statistics, ALA graphs challenges by year, reason, initiator and institution from 1990-2010. I’m not going to go over all of them, but these are a few things I found interesting about the graphs.

ALA currently has 10,676 challenges on record in their Challenge Database (1990-2010). I’m not including the figures from 1990 in my assessment of the graph for challenges by year, since I do not know when in 1990 they started keeping track. So! Disregarding 1990 – the highest year for challenges? 1995 (with 7620). The lowest? 2010 (with 348). I’d say people are getting smarter about censorship and banning, but no – the numbers fluctuate year to year, rather than show a steady decline.

The most popular reason for a book to be challenged? Sexually explicit at 3169. Coming in second is offensive language , followed closely by violence and that all-encompassing unsuited to age group. There were three reasons with below 100 records – abortion, anti-ethnic and inaccurate.

As for challenge by initiator, I was not surprised at all. The initiator of the most challenges in the ALA database? Parents, at 6103. Followed by patron, at a large drop to 1450. The institutions with the highest numbers of challenges logged? School (4048), school library (3659) and public library (2679).

Now, these figures are just the ones from the American Library Association. I browsed the Canadian Library Association to see if they had anything to report on banned/challenged books but did not find anything. However, the website Freedom to Read has a link to a PDF file of challenged books and magazines as compiled by the CLA.